PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — COVID-19 vaccine appointments are now available for elementary-aged children in Rhode Island.
Appointments at the state-run sites began being posted early Wednesday afternoon, with the first slots at Cranston’s mass vaccination site on Thursday morning. Appointments were posted through the end of November.
Gov. Dan McKee and the R.I. Department of Health expanded the eligibility to children ages 5-11 after the CDC recommended the Pfizer vaccine for that age group, which followed the FDA’s emergency use authorization.
The vaccine was determined to be 90.7% effective against COVID-19 and no significant safety issues were identified, according to the Health Department.
“With more than 90% of adult Rhode Islanders at least partially vaccinated, Rhode Island is second in the nation in vaccinations. Now, it’s time for our youngest Rhode Islanders to get vaccinated too,” McKee said.
The children’s vaccine is a third of the dose given to adults and requires two doses three weeks apart.
According to the Health Department, the state already has 900 doses for children, with an additional 9,900 doses expected to arrive on Wednesday and thousands more anticipated in the coming days.
Health officials warned parents to make sure the appointment being booked is for a younger child, since they cannot receive the vaccine made for adults.
Watch: Remarks from Brown University’s Dr. Jha (story continues below)
Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, held a call with reporters on Wednesday about the pediatric vaccine. He says as pediatric vaccines become more widely available, he feels it will have a large impact on schools.
“Schools have largely been open, that’s terrific. We still continue to have too much quarantining and kids getting pulled out of school because infections, I think that’s a problem,” Jha said.
“At this point we have all the tools necessary that we don’t have to pull kids who have been exposed out of school, we can continue to let them be in school using methods like test and stay,” he added.
Jha said once vaccines are added into the mix for all school-age children, the situation will become much different.
“Between adults being vaccinated, kids having the opportunity to be vaccinated, at some point, I think we can begin to think about pulling back on some of the other restrictions we have,” Jha said.
Jha said that could include lifting mask mandates in schools, and believes that would be reasonable in the next few months once vaccines are more widely available.
“With large scale vaccination of kids, we really can get back to what I think is a new normal, a relatively good normal where sports, activities, all the things that are important beyond just being in the classroom should really resume in a way that looks a lore more like 2019, than it does, what life looked like back in 2020 or even early parts of 2021,” he said.
Dr. Jha noted while the lower dose of Pfizer’s vaccine was proven to be safe and effective in the clinical trial, he know parents may be concerned about the risk for myocarditis, or heart inflammation. Jha says the condition has been identified in about one in 10,000 children aged 12-15, and mostly in pre-pubescent boys.
“All of the data suggests that those are relatively mild, certainly compared to myocarditis you get from infections,” he said.
Jha said since Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine s a third of the dosage given to people 12 and older, it is likely the risk of myocarditis is going to be “much, much lower in this population.”
Watch: Q&A with Brown University’s Dr. Jha (story continues below)
Where children can get vaccinated:
- Clinics at schools – School districts are partnering with municipalities to offer more than 130 vaccination clinics for first and second doses. These clinics will be held during the evening starting Sunday. These clinics are open to all children ages 5-11, not just the children who attend the host schools. Unless otherwise noted, vaccines will not be available for older children and adults at school clinics.
- Offices of some primary care providers – Many pediatrician and family medicine practices are enrolled as providers of COVID-19 vaccine. Contact your child’s healthcare provider to learn if they are vaccinating younger children.
- State-run site in Cranston – Appointments for children 5-11 at the Sockanosset Cross Road site and others are available on VaccinateRI.org. People can also call (844) 930-1779 if they need assistance with scheduling an appointment.
- Pharmacies – The vaccine for children 5-11 years old will be available at many CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, and Stop & Shop sites. Availability at these chain pharmacies is expected this weekend. Appointments can be made on their websites, while slots for independent pharmacies will be listed on VaccinateRI.org.
- Health centers – Many health centers are doing direct outreach to their patients about vaccine availability.
- Community clinics – Additional community clinics for children 5-11 will be scheduled in the coming weeks.
Since a lot of doses for children are still in transit, vaccines may not be available in certain settings for several days, according to the Health Department.
Children who get vaccinated before Thanksgiving will be fully vaccinated by Christmas, officials noted.
The latest data from the Health Department shows 71% of Rhode Island’s population is fully vaccinated to date.
On Wednesday, there were no additional COVID-19-related deaths reported, but health officials said there were 267 new cases and a 1.8% daily positivity rate.
After falling below 130 last week, the rate of new cases per 100,000 people over the previous seven days has climbed back up to 144.
COVID-19 hospitalizations also increased to 100 on Wednesday, the data shows, with 12 patients in intensive care and eight on ventilators.