20211104-LOC-KidVax

Children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

For kids age 5 to 11 in New Hampshire, it’s finally their turn to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

The smaller-dose, pediatric Pfizer vaccine was recommended for use by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday.

As vaccine demand dropped over the summer, New Hampshire has continued to shift the role of vaccination away from state-run operations and further into the hands of other providers.

Large state-run clinics and mass drive-thru sites won’t be an option for young kids. Rather, the vaccine will be available across the state at a variety of locations, from pharmacies and doctors’ offices to schools.

Right now, there are more than 500 COVID-19 vaccine providers in the state. At least initially, many of these providers will not have the smaller, pediatric Pfizer-vaccine dose for kids. Gov. Chris Sununu says around 200 locations have so far committed to offering the vaccine for kids.

While New Hampshire has pre-ordered thousands of doses of the pediatric vaccine, providers may not be immediately ready to administer shots in New Hampshire.

In a news conference Tuesday, Sununu and state epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan asked for patience from parents as they prepare to get their kids vaccinated.

Memorial Hospital in North Conway, which works with the state to provide vaccines, says it has been told select locations will receive the pre-ordered vaccine on Friday, while others will get it several days later, on Tuesday, Nov. 9.

Unlike the rollout of vaccines for the general population last spring, there’s no centralized state-run website to book an appointment. It’s up to families to decide where they want to get their kids vaccinated and check for appointments with that provider.

Appointments cannot be made by calling 2-1-1.

Pharmacies

If you’re looking to get your child vaccinated soon, it’s possible going to a pharmacy could be your best bet to get a shot.

With longer hours and weekend availability, pharmacies can offer more flexibility for families to bring their kids to a vaccine appointment outside of work hours. Still, appointments are already filling up quickly.

A spokesman for the N.H. Department of Health and Human Services says around 90 pharmacies are planning to provide pediatric shots in the initial rollout, and the number of participating pharmacies will increase over time.

Pharmacies planning to offer the vaccine for kids include CVS and Walgreens, but not every location will have the vaccine for kids available. When booking an appointment, you’ll need to put in your child’s birthday, which will show only locations offering the pediatric vaccine.

Schools and clinics

Throughout the vaccination rollout, schools have played a key role in hosting clinics for teachers, older students and other residents. State officials say they’re confident vaccine supply will not be an issue, but a few clinics may experience some delays.

The Nashua Division of Public Health & Community Services, along with many of the state’s regional public health networks, has been working with schools to coordinate clinics. In Nashua, a local health official said the clinics will take place outside of school hours.

But some of these school-based clinics could face delays, says Health and Human Services Commissioner Lori Shibinette. Delayed and rejected federal funding for vaccination efforts, she says, have caused some administrative slowdowns with clinic partners.

Some of New Hampshire’s regional public health networks have said funding concerns are causing uncertainty in the planning process, but they do not foresee significant delays.

Outside of the classroom, there will be other community and mobile clinics. The Nashua Division of Public Health & Community Services says it will offer the children’s vaccine at its regularly scheduled immunization clinics.

The state’s mobile vaccine vans, regional public health networks and other contracted providers have been holding mobile clinics at state parks, fairs and other events — a trend that will continue for kids.

These clinics can be a good place to get questions and concerns addressed by health providers in a familiar setting.

Doctors offices, hospitals

While doctors’ offices across the state are planning to administer the pediatric vaccine, some places will not offer it. Complex storage requirements and administrative challenges have meant that some providers don’t have the resources to offer the COVID-19 vaccine, for kids or adults.

Dr. Holly Mintz, a pediatrician and chief medical officer for ambulatory services with Elliot Health in Southern New Hampshire, says kids coming in to see their doctor for routine appointments or other services will be able to get the vaccine at Elliot Health offices.

She says Elliot Health will also be holding clinics on Saturday mornings. Due to staffing shortages, Mintz says, Elliot Health will be unable to make appointments outside of clinic hours purely for vaccines. It’s a reality she laments because, before the pandemic, vaccine appointments for diseases like the flu had been something Elliot Health could offer its patients.

As soon as it receives doses, Memorial Hospital in North Conway plans to offer the vaccine at its regular clinics and at its provider offices, and will potentially hold off-hour clinics.

At home

For kids who need the vaccine administered in their homes, families can schedule a homebound vaccination.

On-Site medical group, a New Hampshire-based company, is currently running the state’s homebound program. The company’s president, Jim Keady, says at-home vaccination will be available for kids who may have difficulty leaving the house due to a physical or mental disability.

Families can call 603-338-9292 or book an appointment online at the company’s website. Keady says he expects to have the pediatric vaccine available soon.

This article is being shared by a partner in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information, visit collaborativenh.org.