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No COVID vaccine for kids just yet

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Posted on Dec 08 2020

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With the CNMI expecting to receive a batch of COVID-19 vaccines this month or early next month, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. is getting ready to roll out the vaccination process in three phases, but not including children.

This is because the clinical trials that were held this year on the vaccines tested their efficacy only on adults, and health experts are saying additional studies need to be done on the vaccine’s effects on children, which could take several more months.

CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña clarified this early that the vaccines, once they arrive, will only be made available to adults in the CNMI. As of press time, she has not clarified the age limit for whom the vaccines will be administered.

Muña said the vaccines are expected to come this month or January 2021. It was earlier reported that the CNMI has already purchased 10 ultra-cold refrigerators where the vaccines will be stored.

“To date, very few children have been part of the clinical trials,” Muña explained.

Right now, the vaccine’s maker, Pfizer, and its partner, BioNTech, are still waiting for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to grant an Emergency Use Authorization on the COVID-19 vaccine. The American Academy of Pediatrics earlier called on researchers to enroll children in the clinical trials to examine the dosages and number of doses that will work for children.

In previous interviews, Muña said that CHCC’s goal is to vaccinate 95% of the CNMI population. This will put the CNMI beyond the minimum 70% needed for herd immunity, when vaccinated people provide immunity cover for those who are unvaccinated.

CHCC, according to Muna, will offer a mass vaccination opportunity that is similar to the community-based testing, where people will have to register first and get their schedule for vaccination.

They will also seek help from community partners and the CNMI government to ensure more people will register. By following the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ proposal, CHCC will vaccinate health workers and front-line responders in the first and second phases.

The third phase will be for the rest of the community.

Meanwhile, health officials are warning people not to let their guards down. With a COVID-19 vaccine perhaps just days away in the U.S., many parts of the United States are experiencing surging outbreaks and top health officials warned Americans that this is no time to let their guard down.

“The vaccine’s critical,” Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “But it’s not going to save us from this current surge. Only we can save us from this current surge.”

A n FDA advisory panel is scheduled to take up a request Thursday (Friday in the CNMI) to authorize emergency use of Pfizer’s vaccine. Vaccinations could begin just days later, though initial supplies will be rationed, and shots are not expected to become widely available until the spring. (With AP)

Justine Nauta
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.

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