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Orange County to Possibly Open On-Site School Vaccination Clinics

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Orange County public schools may open up on-site vaccination clinics for students and their families as early as mid-November, following emergency authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for five year olds and up. 

Worried about a possible winter surge, 100 schools across the state are currently planning to host vaccine clinics in order to protect kids from COVID-19 during the oncoming cold season. 

“We know that vaccines for 5 to 11 year olds will be available as soon as the end of next week with the conclusion of the review process. This will be just in time for parents to get their eligible kids protected before the Winter holidays,” state epidemiologist Dr. Erica Pan said

The clinics have also begun mobilizing in anticipation of a statewide vaccine mandate for kids, which Gov. Gavin Newson has already planned to implement in the coming months. However, the order won’t take effect until the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is approved by the FDA for children 15 years and younger, which has an uncertain timeframe for health officials. 

“We don’t have any more clarity on when the full FDA approval will be,” Secretary of California Health and Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly said. He continued to explain that full approval most likely won’t come this year and could come as late as July 2022. 

State officials are hopeful that the in-school clinic initiative will help California life approach normalcy.

“This is about protecting kids, prioritizing kids, keeping schools going, keeping schools safe [and] getting back to normal,” Ghaly said.

UC Irvine epidemiologist Sanghyuk Shin argued that the vaccine was safe and should be administered. 

“If we want any semblance of having COVID-19 be a disease that causes minimal harm so that we can kind of go back to normal, which is what everybody seems to want, I think we need to support vaccine mandates in schools,” Shin said.

Children will be eligible for one-third of the vaccine dose given to adults, which according to the FDA was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages five to 11. 

The Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines have not yet been given emergency authorization for anyone under the age of 18. 

Elaina Martin is a City News Intern for the fall 2021 quarter. She can be reached at elainarm@uci.edu.