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Johnson County Kids Ages 12-15 Can Now Start Getting Pfizer's COVID Vaccine

Registered Nurse Raquel Garcia, a Truman Medical Centers employee, injects James Watts, 71, with the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Linwood YMCA on Feb. 3.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Registered Nurse Raquel Garcia, a Truman Medical Centers employee, injects James Watts, 71, with the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at Linwood YMCA on Feb. 3.

The FDA this week gave emergency use authorization to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to be administered to children in the 12-15 age range.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment announced Wednesday it will begin administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to residents ages 12 to 15 starting Thursday, May 13.

On Monday, the FDA issued emergency use authorization for the Pfizer two-dose vaccine for adolescents in that age group.

The CDC and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have also authorized its use, prompting JCDHE to clear the way for kids in that age range to begin receiving shots.

JCDHE plans to begin vaccinating children 12 to 15 alongside ongoing vaccination efforts in individuals 16 and older. The dosage across all eligible age groups will be the same.

“We are pleased to be able to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to those who are age 12 and above,” said Dr. Sanmi Areola, JCDHE director, said in a news release Wednesday. “The vaccine is safe and effective and will help us keep our children healthy and our schools open.”

Pediatric vaccination process

Children ages 12-15 will need to be accompanied by an adult to clinics, county director of epidemiology Elizabeth Holzschuh, said.

Parents or guardians will need to either complete the children’s online consent formsahead of time or in person at the clinic.

Vaccination efforts within this younger population will rely heavily on Children’s Mercy Hospital and possibly school districts, Areola said.

Many Johnson County schools and districts have already participated in vaccine clinics, providing vaccination opportunities for high school students 16 and older, who have been eligible to receive the vaccine for weeks now.

So far, 16- and 17-year-olds make up 2.7% of all Johnson County residents who have received at least one dose, according to the county’s vaccine dashboard.

Children’s Mercy has also been a key player in distribution so far, administering vaccines to childcare providers and teachers.

Vaccine supply could also be expanded to pediatricians’ offices across the county to vaccinate their patients, Areola said.

Clinical trials for children six-months-old to 11-years-old are ongoing, including some participants in the Kansas City metro.

For the first time in a few weeks, the local positivity rate declined slightly, going from 3.9% last week to 3.7%. The incidence rate — the number of cases per 100,000 residents — also fell from 91 to 82 this week.

Still, the level of transmission in Johnson County remains “substantial,” according to the CDC.

The total number of deaths in Johnson County attributed to COVID-19 now stands at 657, up seven from last week. There have been a total of 45,733 COVID-19 cases reported in the county.

Local COVID-19 metrics, courtesy of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment dashboard.
Johnson County Department of Health and Environment
Local COVID-19 metrics, courtesy of the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment dashboard.

Vaccination rates

Between county-run clinics and those operated by local hospitals and pharmacies, JCDHE saysmore than 360,000 doses have been administered overall.

The rate of residents now fully vaccinated in Johnson County stands at 32.7%, and slightly more than 42% of residents have been at least partially vaccinated.

The CDC, which has data for all residents vaccinated in multiple states, estimates the full vaccination rate in Johnson County is actually higher than JCDHE’s data reports.

The federal count says that roughly 43% of the county’s population of those 16 and older is now fully vaccinated.

Johnson Countians 80 and older have the highest vaccination rate at more than 86%.

Generally, Holzschuh said uptake has been slowest among younger residents, which means the county will try to target individuals in those groups more in the next few weeks.

“I think a lot of these individuals would be willing to get the vaccine, but they’re not necessarily going to seek it out by coming to our vaccine clinic or even maybe getting it at a pharmacy,” Holzschuh said. “So we want to find places where they are and go to them.”

Vaccine opportunities this week

Anyone needing a vaccination can simply walk in at the county’s facility at 15500 W. 108th Street in Lenexa during the designated vaccine clinic and get a shot.

JCDHE has extended its walk-in clinic hours for the remainder of the month of May to:

  • 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays
  • 3 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays
  • 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 15, and Saturday, May 22

General vaccine appointments are still available as well and can be scheduledhere.

JCDHE is also working to expand its vaccination opportunities through community-oriented events, Areola and Holzschuh said.

This includes events at farmers’ markets, religious organizations, education spaces and businesses around the county.

“The need or demand for our services in the mass vaccination clinic is kind of reducing, so we’re shifting a lot of resources to the smaller community clinics,” Areola said. “Our role is to ensure that we create those opportunities for people to get vaccinated in different ways.”

This story was originally published on the Shawnee Mission Post.

Kaylie McLaughlin reports for the Shawnee Mission Post.
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