State health department planning ahead for vaccination of 5 to 11-year-olds

The next wave of COVID-19 vaccinations is on its way.

Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, said Monday his agency is working now on plans for distribution of the coronavirus vaccine to young Ohioans as soon as it is approved by federal regulators.

“We stand ready to begin the process of vaccinating our children age 5 to 11,” Vanderhoff said. 

Advisory groups at the US Food and Drug Administration and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are meeting in the next two weeks to consider a recommendation on the next round of vaccinations.

Meanwhile, several county health agencies have told WHIO-TV that they are working on plans for distribution of the vaccine once it is approved.

It could be available in clinics at local high schools, in addition to other health providers like CVS, Kroger and family doctors’ offices. 

Vanderhoff said the move fits well into the state’s drive to expand vaccination to not only protect the individual, but also protect everyone around them.

He said all the children age 12 and up who are currently hospitalized with COVID in Ohio had not been vaccinated.

The latest data from ODH put Ohio’s vaccination rate at 51.48 percent for people of all ages who are fully covered. For those who are age 12 and up, the vaccination rate is at 60.16 percent.

Despite efforts to promote the vaccine, the numbers have not changed much for several weeks.

The latest incentive program from Gov. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, Vax-2-School, has allowed people to sign up for a chance to win college scholarship money, but no drawings have been held yet.

DeWine wants to hold-off on the drawings until the students 5-11 are eligible for the vaccine, so they can enter for the drawing too.

When younger students do get the vaccine, it will be similar to the one their parents received, but not the exact same thing. Vanderhoff said the new vaccine for younger kids will have its own qualities.

“When this 5- to 11-year-old vaccine becomes available, they are not interchangeable. This is for the very first time a different formulation of the vaccine, different concentrations, etcetera, a true pediatric vaccine formulation,” Vanderhoff said.

While vaccinations are about to expand to a new group, work on new laws at the Statehouse on vaccine and mask mandates have ground to a halt.

Several bills to allow people to avoid vaccine mandates from their employer have been introduced and weeks ago received much attention, but that has gone from hot to cold.

No hearings are scheduled on that issue for this week. Likewise, a plan to prohibit mask mandates in schools has received little interest lately.

Those issues could still return to the spotlight, but for now it appears they are not on the agenda.