HAMILTON, Ohio — While the Food and Drug Administration is not scheduled to approve Pfizer's vaccine for another two weeks, Hamilton city officials have already ordered COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11.
The beginning of the academic year for Hamilton City Schools brought 67 positive COVID-19 cases and more than 900 quarantines.
"So our lesson real quick was that in order to get kids in school safely, we needed to do something different," Superintendent Michael Holbrook said.
While the district's COVID-19 requirements have lessened cases and quarantines, parents have expressed concerns. Rachael Dunn said she worries about her only son, an 11-year-old struggling with his school's campus rules.
"I think a lot of it has to do with the mask mandates and the social distancing, because it's kind of ... the social norms are totally different for that age group right now," Dunn said.
The city has seen infections from the delta variant fall slightly, but Hamilton Health Commissioner Kay Farrar said half of the city's population is still unvaccinated and vulnerable.
"We also know kids do carry the virus home to often unvaccinated families," Farrar said.
In two weeks, Farrar and other health leaders expect the FDA and CDC to recommend and authorize vaccine doses for children ages 5 to 11. President Joe Biden's administration revealed roll-out plans on Wednesday that make pharmacies, pediatricians and schools key distributors and Hamilton is planning to use campus clinics to help its efforts.
With children accounting for one in four of all new COVID-19 cases, the American Academy of Pediatrics and its Ohio chapter commend the move.
"The impact that this is going to have on preventing disease in kids...but more importantly keeping kids in school, which we know is so important, obviously not only from an educational standpoint but from social, emotional, and mental health," said Dr. Chris Peltier, president-elect of Ohio AAP.
Since Ohio laws prevent pharmacists from giving doses to kids under 7, pediatricians expect to play bigger roles.
"Being able to provide the care that we know that they need in the office setting is something that we've been waiting for...[I'm] so absolutely excited to get that going," said Dr. Nicole George with Pediatric Associates of Fairfield. "Getting school-aged kids vaccinated means less ability to bring it home to their younger siblings and to their grandparents."
Hamilton City Schools officials plan to set up clinics convenient for people on both sides of Great Miami River, hoping the vaccine is the key to ending school mask mandates. Dunn said she just hopes it brings her son relief.