Big Pharmacy Chains Are Offering COVID-19 Vaccines to Some Younger Children
The recommendation that children from 6 months old to 5 are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccination almost certainly will not cause a stampede to the local pharmacy, as has occurred at times in the past. While some big pharmacy chains, especially those with in-store clinics are offering the shots at selective locations with stricter age limits, many community pharmacies won’t be doing that. Here is why.
ATLANTA – While the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends COVID-19 vaccines for everyone 6 months old or older, most independent pharmacies will not be as involved in mass immunizations as they have in the past.
One reason is that an amendment to the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness (PREP) Act for Medical Countermeasures Against COVID–19 limits vaccination of children to those 3 or older. Many pharmacies, especially those without in-store clinics, are hesitant to go that young in offering the shots.
“These requirements are consistent with those in many states that permit licensed pharmacists to order and administer vaccines to children and permit licensed or registered pharmacy interns acting under their supervision to administer vaccines to children,” according to the document from the Department of Health and Human Services. “Administering vaccinations to children age three and older is less complicated and requires less training and resources than administering vaccinations to younger children. That is because ACIP generally recommends administering intramuscular injections in the deltoid muscle for individuals age three and older. For individuals less than three years of age, [the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices] generally recommends administering intramuscular injections in the anterolateral aspect of the thigh muscle.”
The amendment from HHS in March 2020 notes that administering injections in the thigh muscle opens up the possibility of additional complexities and requires additional training.
Even with a child 3 or older, pharmacists are required to advise parents of caregivers accompanying the children of the importance of a well-child visit with a pediatrician or other licensed primary-care provider and refer patients as appropriate.
Most children are expected to be vaccinated at their pediatrician’s office. In terms of pharmacy chains, the nation’s largest will provide vaccines to some children in that younger age group at selected locations. In many cases, the vaccines will be provided at their in-pharmacy health clinics, such as MinuteClinic at CVS Health Corp.
CVS has announced that it will provide vaccines to children aged 18 months and older whileRite Aid Corp., and Walmart Inc. said they plan to vaccinate children 3 or older.
Walgreens, meanwhile, said it will begin administering Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to children aged 3 years and older at select locations nationwide.
“Parents or legal guardians can schedule appointments ahead of the first vaccine shipments scheduled to arrive at select pharmacies next week,” according to a press release that said appointments will be available beginning Saturday, June 25.
Earlier appointments will be made available at select locations based on vaccine delivery even earlier, it added.
“Walgreens pharmacists have significant experience vaccinating younger populations and can help to ease concerns, answer questions and ensure parents feel informed and children feel comfortable during an appointment,” said Kevin Ban, MD, chief medical officer at Walgreens.
The press release advises that younger children receiving a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine should receive the initial two doses 21 days apart and the third dose at least two months following the second dose. Younger children receiving a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine should receive two doses 28 days apart. In addition, immunocompromised children in this age group who receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine are recommended to receive a third dose at least one month following the second dose to complete a primary vaccine series.
Walgreens offered other key information, such as:
- Patients younger than 18 years old must have a parent or guardian present to sign the consent form at the time of immunization.*
- Vaccines for the younger age group are administered at lower doses than those administered to older groups.
- A 15-minute observation period is required, as with older vaccine recipients. “To help pass the time, stores will have activity sheets and stickers available, plus the opportunity to print a free 5x7 photo capturing this important milestone,” according to the press release.