COVID-19: Vaccines available for kids

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High school moves to remote learning

By Randi Pierce

Staff Writer

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is now available for kids aged 5-11, following federal authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) this week.

Tuesday’s CDC recommendation for the vaccine for kids came shortly after Gov. Jared Polis announced that 80 percent of Colorado’s adult population had received at least one dose of a vaccine. 

He also announced that Colorado currently has the fifth highest transmission rate in the country.

“We hit an amazing accomplishment in the fight against COVID-19 yesterday by reaching 80 percent of adults vaccinated across Colorado with at least one dose of the lifesaving and free COVID-19 vaccine,” Polis said Tuesday. “But this milestone is nowhere near signaling that COVID-19 is over. Instead, Colorado is in the middle of record COVID-19 case transmission levels and close to record hospitalization rates largely coming from the unvaccinated minority in our state, who make up the vast majority of hospitalizations in all age groups. Currently, one out of every 51 Coloradans is infected with the virus. It’s critical now that every Coloradan takes advantage of every tool available to slow and stop the spread of COVID, with the most effective tool being the vaccine.”

Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, noted that the last two weeks or so Colorado has seen a pretty rapid acceleration in cases, with Tuesday’s 1,254 hospitalizations being the highest the state has seen since December 2020.

Vaccine available for kids, boosters continue to be available 

According to a San Juan Basin Public Health (SJBPH) press release, the public is now able to make vaccine appointments for 5- to 11-year-olds for Thursday, Nov. 4, or a later date. 

“The CDC voted unanimously to authorize the Pfizer vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds on Tuesday, November 2nd, citing a thorough review process for safety and efficacy,” the press release states.

Youth ages 5 through 17 are only eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, with the dose for those who are 5 to 11 years old being smaller and administered with smaller needles. 

“It is important that residents verify the Pfizer vaccine is being offered when signing up minors for COVID-19 vaccine appointments or walking into a clinic,” the press release states. “Families have options and are encouraged to either sign up for a community vaccination clinic, contact their pediatrician, or reach out to their preferred vaccine provider. … The public is encouraged to continue checking the SJBPH website for available clinics for 5 to 11-year-olds.

“The eligibility of 5- to 11-year-olds for COVID-19 vaccine is a really positive step for our community, and one that families have been waiting for. We hope that families will take advantage of this opportunity as soon as possible,” said Liane Jollon, SJBPH executive director, via the press release. “Getting more of our youth vaccinated will help ensure in-person learning is as safe as possible and protect kids in their extracurriculars, sports, and day-to-day lives. SJBPH has been preparing for this moment by ordering pediatric Pfizer doses in advance and coordinating a range of clinics and providers across Archuleta and La Plata counties to meet the needs of families.”

According to data provided by SJBPH, there were 61 confirmed cases of COVID-19 among 5- to 18-year-olds between Aug. 1 and Oct. 31.

Upcoming community vaccination clinics in Archuleta County offering the Pfizer vaccine include:

• Thursday, Nov. 4, from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Ruby M. Sisson Memorial Library, 811 San Juan St.

• Thursday, Nov. 4, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Ross Aragon Community Center, 451 Hot Springs Blvd. 

• Saturday, Nov. 6, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Pagosa Springs Middle School, 309 Lewis St. 

• Sunday, Nov. 7, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Pagosa Springs Middle School, 309 Lewis St. 

Chandler Griffin, SJBPH COVID-19 public information officer and communications director, explained that all of its Pfizer clinics will have what they need to administer the vaccine to the younger age group.

SJBPH notes that although advance registration is strongly encouraged, walk-ins are welcome at upcoming clinics. 

Parents and guardians are required to provide consent for minors to be vaccinated. The vaccine is free, and no ID is required. 

“SJBPH urges families to make appointments as soon as possible since it can take five or more weeks from the date of the first dose of Pfizer to reach full immunity,” the press release notes.

“It is critical that all residents and youth finish their vaccination series and receive both doses if receiving a two-shot vaccine,” the press release notes. “Anyone who is overdue for their second dose should find a clinic that matches their original vaccine type, sign up for an appointment, and bring their vaccination record card. Studies have shown completing the two-dose regimen is the best way to ensure protection against the Delta variant of COVID-19. SJBPH urges all residents, regardless of vaccination status, to continue to follow public health precautions such as wearing a properly fitted mask in public indoor settings and washing hands often.”

In addition, booster shots continue to be available to those who meet the criteria. 

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccines, current eligibility, details on vaccine clinics and providers, or to make an appointment, visit: https://sjbpublichealth.org/covid-19-vaccine/.

School cases 

The outbreak at Pagosa Springs Elementary School was added to SJBPH’s data dashboard Wednesday, with the outbreak announced by Archuleta School District Superintendent Dr. Kym LeBlanc-Esparza last week.

The superintendent explained last week that class, a kindergarten class, was moved to remote learning for 10 days, while the rest of the school continued with in-person learning.

Griffin explained the first case was identified on Oct. 20. As of Oct. 27, five cases had been identified.

Griffin reported eight cases, all students, as of Wednesday, Nov. 3.

An outbreak is identified as five cases associated with a single facility in a 14-day period, or two cases in a 14-day period in congregate settings.

In a message to high school families sent Tuesday, the school district announced that, due to a rise in COVID-19 cases, Pagosa Springs High School would move to remote learning beginning Wednesday, Nov. 3.

The message sent to families notes the remote learning will continue through Tuesday, Nov. 9, and the school aims to return to in-person learning on Wednesday, Nov. 10.

The letter further notes that all after-school activities are canceled until in-person learning is resumed.

Griffin pointed out that, at this point, the decision to move the high school to remote learning is coming from the district and no outbreak has been identified, though case investigation is underway.

“Their leadership is aware of several possible cases,” he said.

The state’s outbreak information is available at: https://covid19.colorado.gov/covid19-outbreak-data.

Local numbers

According to SJBPH, Archuleta County’s seven-day cumulative incidence rate was 336.6 cases per 100,000 people Wednesday — down from 350.0 a week prior.

According to the CDC, Colorado’s seven-day incidence rate was 353.4 Wednesday — up from 309.7 a week prior.

The U.S.’s one-week rate is 157.7, up from 143.7 a week prior.

As of Wednesday, SJBPH listed 1,556 total cases of confirmed COVID-19 among permanent Archuleta County residents since late March 2020, up from 1,506. 

The agency showed Archuleta County was at 12 percent positivity Wednesday, even with the previous week.

SJBPH continues to list four deaths among cases for Archuleta County.

SJBPH’s public health advisory related to COVID-19 can be found at: https://sjbpublichealth.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/SJBPH-Third-Amended-Advisory-10.5.2021.pdf.

randi@pagosasun.com