The state has given the green light for health care providers to begin vaccinating young children against the novel coronavirus, Gov. Larry Hogan confirmed Wednesday.
The CDC gave emergency use approval for the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 5-11 on Tuesday evening. The FDA gave emergency use approval for the pediatric vaccine last week.
“Earlier today Maryland health officials authorized providers all across the state to immediately begin scheduling appointments, holding clinics, and vaccinating 5 to 11-year-olds in Maryland,” Hogan said at a news conference at the State House in Annapolis.
“Our state health team has been working for many weeks in anticipation of federal approval to mobilize detailed operational plans for vaccinating children,” the governor added.
The state ordered 180,000 doses from the federal government as part of its initial request and some of that supply has already arrived in Maryland, Hogan said.
The federal government has pledged that Maryland will eventually receive enough doses to vaccine all of the 515,000 eligible 5-11-year-olds in the state but that that may take some time, Hogan said.
The governor emphasized that the decision of whether or not to vaccine will be left to parents.
“I know that many parents are relieved and they have been looking forward to this day for many months. And they have already decided to move forward immediately to protect their kids, to avoid unnecessary outbreaks and disruptive quarantines, and to help keep kids in school. I also know there are some parents who want to do what is best for their children, but still have concerns or questions that they need answers to.”
Deputy Health Secretary Dr. Jinlene Chan sought to reassure the state’s parents that the pediatric vaccine is both safe and effective, even against the Delta and other variants.
“It is a safe vaccine and 97% effective at preventing symptomatic infection from COVID-19 among the 5 t0 11-year-olds who participated in the clinical studies here in the United States and around the world.”
Chan noted that the pediatric vaccine contains about one-third of the dose of the adult vaccine but is nevertheless equally effective at preventing both infection and serious illness.
Chan said the common side effects from the pediatric vaccine are similar to those of the adult vaccine and include temporary soreness at the injection site as well as fatigue and sometimes headaches.
Chan said more serious side effects, such as heart inflammation, are extremely rare.
“The CDC and FDA have confirmed fewer than 900 reports of Myocarditis or Pericarditis in adolescent boys and young men after receiving either the Pfizer or the (Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines. So while there are occurrences of Myocarditis and Pericarditis, it is a much smaller risk related to the vaccine than actually getting the infection itself.”
There are 562,896 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Maryland as of Wednesday morning, according to the Department of Health, and 10,694 people in Maryland have died from the virus. The state’s positivity rate is 3.01%, which is well within CDC recommended guidelines for containment. Maryland has administered nearly 14.2 million COVID-19 tests.
About 87% of the people in Maryland have had at least one dose of the vaccine, according to the Department, and about 62% of the people in the state have received both doses of the vaccine.
Nationally, 58% or about 193 million people in the U.S. have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.