Whitmer directs departments to fast track vaccine for kids

Coronavirus

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks during the Detroit Branch NAACP’s 66th Annual Fight For Freedom Fund Dinner at TCF Center in Detroit on Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021. (Nic Antaya/Detroit News via AP)

LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued an executive directive to Michigan departments today to start ordering and distributing the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine.

Whitmer says she wants to protect Michiganders age 5-11 as soon as possible so that they can continue in-person learning safely this year.

“Today, we’re taking action to keep our kids safe from COVID-19,” said Governor Whitmer. “The Michigan made Pfizer vaccine is safe, effective, free, and expected to be approved for Michiganders between 5 and 11 years old. This is a game-changer for our kids that will protect them as they continue to learn in-person in the classroom this school year, participate in extracurricular activities, or see friends and family this holiday season. My directive today ensures equitable, expedited distribution of the vaccines. Parents should sign up to protect their kids.”

A panel of U.S. health advisers on Tuesday endorsed kid-size doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, moving the U.S. closer to beginning vaccinations in children ages 5 to 11, according to The Associated Press.

According to date from Pfizer, the vaccine is nearly 91 percent effective at stopping symptomatic infections in the 5-11 age group.

“Being able to vaccinate children ages 5-11 with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine brings us hope and also an opportunity to urge all eligible Michiganders to get vaccinated,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, MDHHS chief medical executive. “We know these vaccines work. Vaccines are our way out of the pandemic, and now 825,000 children in our state are now eligible to be protected.” 

Whitmer says the executive directive expedites the administration of pediatric vaccinations by: 

  • Requiring the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to take all appropriate action to ensure that the COVID-19 vaccination is available to all children in Michigan as soon as they are eligible to receive the vaccine. 
  • Encouraging all pediatric vaccination providers to enroll as COVID-19 vaccine providers, including by educating pediatricians and family practice providers about eligibility, barriers to access, and the importance of pediatric vaccination. 
  • Promoting vaccination in settings that facilitate ease of access, including by working with child and adolescent health centers serving grades K-12, federal qualified health centers, pharmacies, local health departments, and community clinics.   
  • Promoting equity in accessibility of pediatric vaccination, considering barriers to access presented by geography, income, age, race, ethnicity, primary language, or disability status. 

Under the directive, Michigan now has to regularly report the proportion of kids age 5-11 who have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Throughout the pandemic we have taken every possible measure to keep Michiganders safe,” said MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel. “Being able to protect our children is a critical and exciting development in our efforts to end this pandemic. It is important that children get vaccinated as quickly as possible.” 

From January to October, unvaccinated Michiganders accounted for 93.1% of COVID cases, 90.7% of hospitalizations and 90.5% of deaths, Whitmer said.

“Vaccinating kids and teens against COVID will protect their health, allow them to re-engage more safely in activities they’ve missed out on this past year, and protect more vulnerable classmates and family members,” said Dr. Matthew Hornik, DO, President of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatricians (MIAAP). “Pediatricians are the immunization experts, remain at the forefront of care for children, and pediatricians are available to discuss questions and concerns with the families they know and trust.” 

Michigan has pre-ordered 287,000 doses of the Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine.

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