California officials today announced plans to vaccinate 3.5 million kids ages 5-11 against Covid as soon as next week. The state’s director of Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said at a news conference that the state expects to have 1.2 million doses on hand as it begins to inoculate pre-teens.
That rollout will depend on a few factors, however.
An expert committee at the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday recommended the authorization of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for 5- to-11-year-olds. That advice now goes to FDA leadership which — if past is prologue — likely will agree in the next few days and its own recommendation to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for final approval. That process likely will take just under a week.
California has its own vetting process through the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, public health experts from California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington who are analyzing federal findings for those states. Their consideration usually takes 24-48 hours, after which time Ghaly and other state health officials will make the final determination on the administration of the vaccine to pre-teens. Ghaly said he expects the whole process to result in approval and that officials are “anticipating that rollout next week.”
Asked about some parents thoughts that Covid doesn’t dramatically impact children Ghaly replied, “The CDC announced that Covid is 8th leading killer of young people.” For those concerned about the vaccines themselves Ghaly, who is a pediatrician, said, “These pediatric vaccines: They are safe. They are effective.”
Governor Newsom also weighed in observing that “10 vaccines have been required to send your kids to public schools for decades now in California.” He said, as he has before, that his decision this month to mandate vaccination for every child who physically attends school in the state after July 1, 2022, was among the “most predictable” of the pandemic given that vaccinations are already required for a host of other maladies.
He also cited a need to push forward now with increased vaccinations because, as Newsom said in a ‘GOT’-tinged tweet this week, “winter is coming.”
“We’ve got to be mindful of the winter months and safely enjoying the holidays together,” said Newsom. “We now have the prospect of a flu season that was mitigated last year” by masks and social distancing coming roaring back. He cited the potential for a “twindemic” of increased flu cases and another winter wave of Covid.
“This time last year,” observed the governor, “we had about 6,000 cases. One month later we had 18,000 cases. One month after that, we had 54,000.”
“Basically,” he said, the state saw “a tripling of cases.” Couple that with increased flu and kids back in school, and Newsom said he is concerned.
“What’s going on in the UK right now?” he asked. “It’s a month or so ahead. What’s going on in Israel?
“The one thing we’ve learned in the past 18 months,” he continued, is “humility” in the face of Covid.