Covid Shots for Little Kids Are Here. Now for the Hardest Part

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In some pediatric practices, shots are already going into arms. Children’s Medical Group, a private practice in Atlanta, ordered doses as soon as it was allowed, and received their first shipment on Monday, the Juneteenth holiday. They began vaccinating at lunchtime. “We've had huge demand,” says Jennifer Shu, a pediatrician in the practice and editor for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We've even gotten calls from patients in other practices whose doctors aren't carrying any Covid vaccine for this age group.”

As that suggests—and as parents are reporting on Twitter—availability varies. That may be due to those advance predictions of low uptake; practices and hospitals might not want to invest freezer space and staff time if they don’t expect much interest. But it may also be due to a bureaucratic hurdle that has dogged Covid vaccination since its earliest days. Unlike almost every other vaccine, this one doesn’t come from a commercial distributor; it is dispensed by the federal government and funneled through state health departments. So to receive it, healthcare providers have to complete CDC paperwork. That’s true even if they already participate in other government programs, including Vaccines for Children (known as VFC), which guarantees shots for families without private health insurance.

“Participation by the providers who usually participate in the VFC program has been pretty good,” says Marcus Plescia, a physician and chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “Getting it out into private practice sites has been a slower process. They're not used to being part of government-run vaccine programs. Some of them don't want to do that, because of the paperwork and hassle.”

The child-vaccination program may also be hobbled by another long-standing issue: the size of the vaccine vials. Each holds 10 doses, and once thawed and opened, has to be used within 12 hours. “Pediatricians, especially, don't like to waste vaccine. They view it as a precious commodity,” Hannan says. “Getting them to order enough vials to have vaccine on hand every day, when they&...

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