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DHS: Federal guidance for vaccinating 5 to 11 year olds needed before shots can begin

CDC recommending all children in the age group get vaccinated but waiting to publish instructions for vaccinators

A nurse administers the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine
Mary Altaffer/AP Photo

Officials with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services said they’re waiting for federal guidance for vaccinators before COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-old children will begin.

The announcement comes a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that all children in the age group get the Pfizer vaccine.

In a press release, DHS Secretary-designee Karen Timberlake said medical experts have confirmed that the Pfizer vaccine is safe for children between those ages. The agency estimates more than 500,000 children in Wisconsin would qualify to receive the shots.

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“We will soon begin vaccinating more of Wisconsin’s children to protect them from the long-term symptoms of COVID-19 and reduce disruptions in and out of the classroom,” said Timberlake. “We are urging parents and guardians to get their children vaccinated as soon as they can to protect them and those around them.”

During a media briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Ryan Westergaard, DHS chief medical officer, called the CDC recommendation “a huge step forward in the fight against COVID-19.

“And we here in Wisconsin are thrilled to be able to offer a safe and effective vaccine for younger kids,” said Westergaard. “As a father, I look forward to my kids joining the hundreds of thousands of other Wisconsin children who’ve already gotten their COVID 19 vaccine.”

DHS officials said the CDC guidance it’s waiting for will relate to proper dosages and other essential training for vaccinators administering shots.

“So, it is our hope that that is imminent,” said Stephanie Schauer, DHS Division of Public Health Immunization program manager, during the briefing. “But we don’t have the powers over when the CDC will publish it, but we do hope it will be this week.”

Schauer said Wisconsin has been allocated around 177,000 doses for the first week of immunizations in the age group. She said the CDC has assured the department there will be plenty of vaccine

Results from a Kaiser Family Foundation survey of parents released Sept. 30 suggested one-third of parents of children between 5 and 11 years old will vaccinate their children right away. Another third of respondents said they will “wait and see” how the vaccine is working before getting their children vaccinated. The share of parents who said they definitely won’t get their kids vaccinated was 24 percent.

When asked about the surveys, Westergaard said he understands parents having questions about the vaccine but said public health officials are reiterating that vaccines are safe.

“So, on balance, we want people to think about the risk versus benefit, the benefit to our state and for our families of getting as many people vaccinated, including children, is profound,” said Westergaard. “The risk of vaccines have been well-studied and are very, very small.”

CVS Pharmacy has begun accepting appointments for Pfizer vaccinations for newly eligible children and said that upon confirmation of vaccine supply they expect to begin administering shots on Sunday.

The Rock County Public Health Department said Thursday that it expects medical providers will start vaccinations for kids five to 11 years old “sometime next week.”