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COVID shots for elementary kids coming to Omaha area, but it may take a few days to get one
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COVID shots for elementary kids coming to Omaha area, but it may take a few days to get one

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Nebraska's coronavirus cases and hospitalizations were up again last week, indicating that the delta surge that began over the summer has not yet lost its sting.

The specially dosed and formulated COVID-19 vaccine for elementary-age kids is arriving in Nebraska, but it likely will be a couple of days before the first shots go into little arms, health officials said Wednesday.

An independent advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the lower dose of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 on Tuesday.

The agency's director signed off hours later, clearing the way for the vaccine rollout. Both moves followed the Food and Drug Administration's approval last week of emergency use of the vaccine in that age group.

Terra Uhing, executive director of the Three Rivers Public Health Department, said her office received its first shipment about mid-morning Wednesday. 

But it likely will be next week before the Fremont-based department starts offering the shots. She was still awaiting standing orders, the blanket prescription that allows providers to administer the vaccine, and finalizing processes for administering the differently sized — they're a third of the dose of the adult shot — and mixed doses for kids. Also yet to arrive were the ancillary kits including syringes and smaller, kid-sized needles.

"We're excited," she said. "This is one more tool in our toolbox to get through this pandemic."

vaccine 3

An excited Cate Zeigler-Amon, 10, hangs out of the car as she waits with her mom, Sara Zeigler, to receive her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at the Viral Solutions vaccination and testing site in Decatur, Georgia, on the first day COVID-19 vaccinations were available for children from 5 to 12 on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021. The pair arrived one and a half hours before the site opened to be first in line.

Some parents are excited, too. Uhing said she's already heard from some parents who have asked whether her department has the vaccine. She advised those who are eager to get the shots for their kids to check with pharmacies or call their pediatricians. Some will offer it; some will not.

Not all families are expected to be eager to get the shots. Some may want to wait a bit, said Dr. Natalie Fleming, a pediatrician with Methodist Physicians Clinic in Omaha. And others may not be eager to do it at all.

"I can understand vaccinating your child is very scary for some parents," she said. "Pediatricians are no strangers to vaccines; we talk about them all the time. If you have questions, reach out."

However, she encouraged parents to get their children vaccinated as soon as they can. A lot of extra research went into making sure a safe dose was created for them. No cases of heart problems or serious allergic reactions were reported in children who participated in the clinical trial where it was tested. 

While children are at lower risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19 than older people, 5- to 11-year-olds still have been seriously affected — including more than 8,300 hospitalizations, about a third requiring intensive care. The FDA said 146 deaths have been reported in that age group.

Meanwhile, the initial rush for the pediatric vaccines is on, much as it was when vaccines were first authorized for adults.

A limited supply of the pediatric vaccine is available by appointment at select HyVee Pharmacies, the company announced Wednesday.

Christina Gayman, a company spokeswoman, said some stores in South Dakota and Minnesota had received shipments Wednesday, but those in Nebraska and western Iowa had not.

Some, however, have received shipping confirmation. As soon as stores receive doses, they will add appointments online. Those appointments, however, may book quickly, as they did in the initial rush of adult vaccinations last spring.

"It's a limited supply as it starts," she said. "But we'll get more."

Walgreens announced Wednesday that its pharmacies would begin administering the vaccine to 5- to 11-year-olds in thousands of stores nationwide beginning Saturday. Parents and guardians can start scheduling appointments ahead of time at Walgreens.com/ScheduleVaccine, through the Walgreens app or by calling 1-800-Walgreens.

CVS's website says that pharmacy chain will begin offering shots in select locations on Sunday. Those can be scheduled on the company's website.

Kohll's Rx announced late Wednesday that it had received a small order of the pediatric vaccine, which is available at its Millard location. The local pharmacy chain will distribute some vaccine to other locations, and a larger order is expected next week. Appointments can be scheduled on the company's website, kohllsrx.com.

Beginning Thursday, Children's Physicians will hold dedicated clinics for eligible children by appointment on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings at its West Village Pointe and Spring Valley locations. Families of Children's patients are encouraged to schedule through Children's Connect; families of non-Children’s patients can schedule by calling 402-955-SHOT. 

There is not expected to be any shortage of the vaccine. Federal officials announced weeks ago that they had purchased enough for all 28 million children in that age bracket.

And more local providers will be offering the shots soon. 

OneWorld Community Health Centers also received a shipment of vaccine Wednesday. The health center likely will start administering it Monday, said Andrea Skolkin, OneWorld's CEO.

The Douglas County Health Department also received its first shipment Wednesday. Those doses will go to health systems to distribute through their clinics and to some independent providers, said Phil Rooney, a health department spokesman. The health department expects to start administering the vaccine at its clinics next week. Clinics also will be held at schools. Details will be made available when they are finalized. 

Methodist Physicians Clinic patients in Nebraska and Iowa can begin contacting their physician offices next week for appointment options. 

Uhing said Three Rivers soon will offer the shots at its walk-in clinics and eventually at after-hours clinics at area schools that agree to host them. 

Uhing said her 9-year-old daughter is among those excited to get the shot. Her three older siblings already have gotten their vaccines.

Meanwhile, the Omaha Public Schools have released a series of public service announcements encouraging families to seek out vaccines for their children.

OPS officials announced Monday that they will revisit the district's mask policy in January, based on the imminent arrival of the vaccine for younger children. The district now requires masks for all students, staff and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.


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Julie Anderson is a medical reporter for The World-Herald. She covers health care and health care trends and developments, including hospitals, research and treatments. Follow her on Twitter @JulieAnderson41. Phone: 402-444-1066.

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