Health department preps to vaccinate ages 5+ against COVID

Published 12:40 am Tuesday, November 2, 2021

The Port Arthur Health Department is preparing to administer Pfizer vaccinations to children 5 and up following recent approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

However, the local office will wait first for approval from the Centers for Disease Control, which is expected to be discussed today (Nov 2).

“Tomorrow the CDC will meet to discuss it and they will make the decision to endorse what the FDA has already approved,” Health Director Judith Smith said Monday. “We won’t start until we get confirmation from the CDC.”

Smith, however, said the local office that serves all of Mid and South County has been through training with Texas Health and Human Services, and has placed an order for additional Pfizer shots.

“We are prepared and ready,” she said.

Having already received calls and emails about it, Smith said they expect to be vaccinating those 5 and up late this week or next week.

But the number of children 12-17 currently getting vaccinated as approved earlier this year has slowed locally.

Smith said right now the largest number of persons visiting the vaccination hub are doing so for the booster shot — particularly Moderna.

“The majority of the vaccines that we gave at the Civic Center were Moderna,” she said of the third shot, approved just last month. “That’s why we’re seeing so many people come back for boosters.”

While there are some qualifications, the limitations on booster shoots are so broad generally anyone fits them, as long as it has been six months since their second shot.

Those 65 and older are automatically allowed without restriction. Others that fit the requirements include those with underlying health conditions or work in high-risk settings.

“When we think about the population of the people we serve, we think about the places people work and the conditions of the people in our city — they could be diabetic or obese,” Smith said, adding both qualify as high-risk. “In essence anybody that’s 18 and older…and it’s been six months since their series, for the most part they’re going to be eligible.”

According to Texas Health and Human Services, 52.6 percent of Jefferson County residents 12 and older have been fully vaccinated.

But with the addition of children 5 and older, the question arises: will COVID vaccinations become part of annual requirements for students in public school?

By order of Gov. Greg Abbott, the possibility doesn’t seem likely for the near future.

On Oct. 11, Abbott signed an executive order reinforcing the prohibition of any government entity from imposing vaccine mandates or requiring vaccine passports.

“The COVID-19 vaccine is safe, effective and our best defense against the virus,” Abbott said in a written release, “but should remain voluntary and never forced.

Douglas Loveday with the Texas Department of Health and Human Services told Port Arthur Newsmedia Monday, “We take the legislature’s direction on vaccine requirements.”

The Port Arthur Health Department’s COVID Vaccine Clinic is staying open for extended hours to provide vaccines to help those who are working during the day. On Thursday (Nov. 4), individuals may come to the clinic from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the Texas Artist’s Museum, 3501 Cultural Center Drive.

Booster doses, as well as first and second doses of Moderna and Pfizer will be offered.

The Pfizer Vaccine, for individuals 12 and above; the Moderna Vaccine, for persons 18 years old, and above; and the Johnson and Johnson Vaccine for those age 18 and above are all available to the public.