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Covid vaccines for children ages 6 months to 5 years are just around the corner in Monterey County.

At a November vaccine clinic for children ages 5-11

At a November vaccine clinic for children ages 5-11 in November 2021. Photographed by Daniel Dreifuss.

Pam Marino here, feeling a sense of relief. That’s because it’s the point in time my family has been anxiously waiting for since the start of the pandemic: It’s the week my two youngest grandchildren can get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Centers for Disease Control Director Rochelle P. Walensky endorsed on Saturday the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ recommendation that all children ages 6 months through 5 years receive the Covid-19 vaccine. 

The next step for the vaccines to be used in California, Oregon and Washington was an approval by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, which happened yesterday. So as of today health care providers have the go ahead to administer the child dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines.

Not everyone has the vaccines in child dosages—which are smaller than adult and teen dosages—on hand yet. I made a quick check this afternoon at the Central Avenue Pharmacy, also known as Cap RX, in Pacific Grove—possibly the first pharmacy in the county to administer vaccines to 12-15 year olds almost exactly one year ago—and they hadn’t received their shipment yet. As soon as they have it they will begin vaccinations, a pharmacist told me.

The Monterey County Health Department was expecting a shipment today, according to spokesperson Karen Smith. She says it may be available at a clinic from 4-7pm Thursday, June 23, at the Friendship Baptist Church, 1440 Broadway Ave., Seaside.

What is available right now is the ability to go online at myturn.ca.gov and sign up for an appointment. Or go to montereycountyvaccines.com which maintains a list of pharmacies and other locations where vaccines may be found, as well as updated info on clinics happening on a week-by-week basis.

In making the announcement, Walensky stated that the vaccines for children are safe and that in very rigorous trials were shown to be highly effective. The CDC is recommending that children receive the vaccine even if they’ve had the virus.

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According to the Health Department, 94 percent of all Monterey County residents ages 55 and up have had at least one dose of vaccine. Unfortunately the rates decline as the population gets younger, dropping to a worrisome 39 percent of children ages 5-11. (In total, 85 percent of the eligible population have had at least one dose and 75 percent are fully vaccinated.)

I say worrisome because the case rates of Covid-19 continue to climb. As of today the county reported over 400 new cases since last week. There are 40 people in the hospital, up from 37, with two in the ICU. Two more people have died for a grand total of 755. The test positivity rate is up from 9.5 percent to 11.2 percent. 

If there’s good news it’s that the most recent variants and sub variants are not making people as sick as previous strains of Covid, but they appear to be much more contagious. It may not make people as sick, but it will take them out of work, school, summer camps, gatherings, etc., for several days if not longer. (Or it should for the sake of the rest of the community.)

We still do not fully understand the long term effects of a Covid infection. Some people might be just fine, others may be saddled with long Covid symptoms that will disable them from being able to work or function normally for undetermined periods of time. Even those who have a mild case could find themselves with long term health effects. One large study announced in March found that those who had experienced Covid were 40-percent more likely to be diagnosed with diabetes up to a year later, even in mild cases.

The pandemic is not over. The mantra remains the same, including now for very young children: get vaccinated, wear a mask in indoor public spaces (ages 2 and up), test if exposed or experiencing symptoms, stay home if you feel sick and wash your hands.

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