Child vaccinations off to a good start

The first data covering children ages 5 to 11 shows that vaccinations are off to strong start in Michigan. But total vaccination rates still have a long way to go.

It’s been just a week since federal health officials gave the go-ahead for children ages 5 to 11 to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and Michigan is off to a strong start.

In its first report since the new age group was added, health officials announced that more than 14,000 children in Michigan had received their first doses of the Pfizer vaccine. That accounted for 19% of all vaccines administered in the state in the past week.

The numbers are even more striking in Kalamazoo County. Since Nov. 2, 652 children 5-11 have received their first doses of the vaccine. That’s 28% of all the vaccines administered in that time period in the county.

Vaccination numbers have slowed considerably since the spring, dwindling to no more than a few thousand per day in Michigan. That’s compared to more than 100,000 per day in early April.

The addition of young children to the mix hasn’t done much to nudge those numbers upward. However, it is still early – most vaccine providers only began giving the vaccines to this younger cohort over the weekend. That means next week’s report could still show significant increases.

The doses approved for use among children 5-11 are small – just a third of the size of the doses given to older folks. In addition, doses for young children are being packaged and delivered separately from the others. That means providers can’t just dip into their existing stockpiles of vaccines to give to younger patients.

There is a lot of interest in getting young children vaccinated in Kalamazoo. The county health department planned a vaccination clinic on Saturday with 250 appointment slots. Health Officer Jim Rutherford said those slots filled up within hours of registration opening.

The county has appointments open Mondays through Thursdays between 9am and 3pm, though appointment slots fill up quickly. Other providers, such as Bronson Healthcare and Meijer Pharmacy, are also booking appointments for children.