HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) is eyeing locations to offer the COVID vaccine for children between the ages of five to 11 years old as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inch closer to giving the approval.

The FDA will meet on Oct. 26 to review Pfizer’s request for approval of the vaccine in younger children, and then the CDC would also do its review before sharing guidance with vaccine providers.

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Brooks Baehr, Hawaii DOH spokesperson, said the department is working to make the COVID vaccine accessible to children and their parents.

“Those locations include a whole lot of schools — upwards of 100 schools or more — medical facilities, hospitals, pop-up vaccination locations, pharmacies, the community health centers,” Baehr said. “Even a handful of pediatrician offices should be offering the vaccine to youngsters if they are approved by the federal regulators.”  

Dr. Melinda Ashton with Hawaii Pacific Health said the approach for children will be different than the larger vaccination sites, such as Pier Two. She said mass vaccination sites could make younger kids nervous; instead, they are trying to find ways to keep children comfortable with a parent nearby.

“Maybe another approach would be to have vaccinations given to kids who are in their parent’s cars,” Dr. Ashton said. “Just do a drive-thru vaccination approach so that the kids can be comfortable with their own family, have their own entertainment while they wait for that 15 minutes.” 

Doctors said vaccine data for younger children show similar results as the doses within teens.

Pediatric Specialist Dr. Nadine Tenn Salle said, “We do see that it is safe and that there are some rare side effects that we’re not blind to, but they feel that it is safe enough to send out to the general population.”

Children between the ages of five and 11 make up more than 8% of the state’s population. Once vaccines open up for this age bracket, vaccinated children could move the needle in the state’s vaccination efforts.

“I believe a lot of children have missed out on a lot of opportunities, and as we vaccinate more people and as we are able to vaccinate children, this is going to give us another layer of protection,” Baehr added. “And it is going to move us closer to, hopefully, ending this terrible pandemic.”

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The DOH will continue to update its website with information for parents on how to sign up for coronavirus vaccines once the shots receive approval for younger children.