Fairfax County anticipates supply of COVID-19 vaccine for kids will meet demand in next few weeks

Fairfax County families interested in getting their children vaccinated against COVID-19 will have a variety of venues to choose from, but finding an available appointment may initially be challenging, the county health department said yesterday (Wednesday).

After months of anticipation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention formally authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 on Tuesday (Nov. 2), recommending a third of the dosage that everyone 12 and older has been able to receive since May.

Distribution of pediatric vaccinations is already underway, but operations will not reach full capacity until next week, according to the CDC.

With approximately 97,000 children now eligible, the Fairfax County Health Department anticipates “high interest” in the vaccine among families, Assistant Public Health Emergency Management Coordinator Colin Brody says.

“There may be a few days at the beginning where providers are still working to make appointments available in their systems,” Brody said. “However, we do not for see any major issues at this time and we believe all those who are seeking vaccine will be able to get it in the first few weeks.”

The county health department says it will receive about 80,000 doses for children over the next few weeks.

Initially, vaccinations will only be available to kids by appointment, but unlike with the original vaccine rollout, the county will not have a centralized registration system or waitlist.

Instead, appointments must be made with individual providers, including:

Doses are also being distributed to pediatric and family medicine providers, which can be contacted directly for scheduling, as well as pharmacies, grocery stores, and urgent care facilities, which will post appointments to as they become available.

While some nearby jurisdictions like Arlington County have announced a specific date for when they will start offering pediatric vaccinations, FCHD just says in its blog post that the vaccine will be widely available in the community “in the coming days.”

The department says residents can make appointments as soon as they see openings.

“We did not want to wait until the weekend if some doctors/the CVC/or any other site already has the vaccine in supply and is ready to provide vaccinations sooner,” the FCHD said by email.

The county is also planning to host vaccination clinics at schools and community centers as part of its effort to ensure accessibility to all children.

Fairfax County Public Schools officials stated last month that school-based clinics for elementary school-aged students could be ready around mid-November, though further details — including the name of the third-party provider contracted to help administer the shots — have not been shared yet.

FCPS did not return a request for comment by press time.

The urgency of COVID-19 vaccinations for children has increased over the past few months, particularly with public schools resuming five days of in-person classes.

Children have experienced the highest rate of COVID-19 infection in the county since late August, according to FCHD Director Dr. Gloria Addo-Ayensu.

According to state data, 18,334 Fairfax Health District residents aged 19 and younger have contracted the novel coronavirus, though the district has reported just one death in that age group.

“While children are less likely to get serious disease than adults, some have been hospitalized and, like adults, suffering symptoms that can last for months,” said Addo-Ayensu. “Children with asymptomatic infections can spread the virus to other household members. For these reasons, we encourage parents and guardians to get their child[ren] vaccinated as soon as possible.”