First published in the Nov. 11 print issue of the Outlook Valley Sun. By Oscar Areliz and
Parents have long waited for the federal government to approve Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine against COVID-19 for children ages 5 to 11 but may remain on standby despite the state allocating more than 1.2 million doses last week.
The pediatric vaccine — which is a third of the dose given to those 12 and older — is in high demand but scarce in La Cañada Flintridge.
Parents and their children flocked to Flintridge Pharmacy as soon as the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 was given the green light by U.S. health officials and news broke on social media that the pharmacy in LCF had the vaccine in stock, said longtime owner Michael Stemfel.
“The match that lit the fuse was when it went out on Facebook,” said Stemfel, noting that the line of parents and children snaked throughout the store, across the parking lot and out onto Indianola Way. “It was like the dam broke, and then it was total pandemonium.
“Adding to the line around the corner, the phones were ringing nonstop and the children, of course, who didn’t want the shot, were screaming. I haven’t seen anything like this since a 1970s rock concert,” laughed Stemfel, who grew up in LCF and whose father, Joseph, founded the pharmacy back in 1969.
Flintridge Pharmacy inoculated 300 children under 12 each day to total more than 1,000 since last week, with many parents also taking advantage of being there to receive the booster, he added. The pharmacy has since run out of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12 but is expecting to receive more later this week.
Though people had to wait in line, the parents were all chatting with each other and the mood was elated, Stemfel noted.
“They were all talking and laughing, it was actually very cool to witness and seemed reflective of people being able to protect their children against [the disease] now … it kind of turned into a big social event,” he said.
The Food and Drug Administration signed off on emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for children on Nov. 2 and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention proceeded with its recommendation hours after the FDA’s announcement.
“We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated, and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine,” CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said in a statement. “As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated.”
The expansion of the nation’s inoculation campaign arrives weeks before Thanksgiving and might help stave off a winter surge in the virus.
“Vaccines are how we end this pandemic, and they’re how we keep our kids safe — it’s time to get our children protection they need from this deadly virus, especially as we head into winter season,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement.
Dr. Janet Woodcock, acting FDA commissioner, said there were no serious side effects detected during the clinical trials in which 3,100 of 4,600 young participants received the vaccine, which was 90.7% effective in preventing infection.
“As a mother and a physician, I know that parents, caregivers, school staff and children have been waiting for today’s authorization,” Woodcock said on Tuesday. “Vaccinating younger children against COVID-19 will bring us closer to a sense of normalcy.”
LCHS TO HOST
The La Cañada Unified School District partnered with nonprofit organization Wealth by Health to give parents an opportunity to inoculate their children at the high school this Saturday.
The vaccine clinic at the La Cañada High School auditorium will offer Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 as well as Pfizer’s shot for anyone 12 and older, doses of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson for adults 18 and older, booster shots and flu vaccines.
First doses will be administered Saturday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. and a clinic for second doses will be held on Saturday, Dec. 4. Walk-ins are welcome but appointments are recommended. Visit myturn.ca.gov and enter the zip code 91011 to make an appointment online or call (888) 996-9985.
LCUSD Superintendent Wendy Sinnette encouraged eligible students, staff and families be vaccinated against the coronavirus and said it is the best way to keep children in school.
“LCUSD’s priorities include the health and safety of our entire community, as well as keeping students in school and ensuring their active engagement in learning and mastering the grade level and course curriculum,” Sinnette said. “The social-emotional and wellness benefits of uninterrupted school attendance are also a District priority.”
La Cañada — which has total of 4,570 students and employees — was one of the first districts in Los Angeles County to reopen for its youngest learners last year and has safety protocols in place that have been effective in mitigating the spread of the coronavirus. The LCUSD has had 43 positive cases among students and 10 among staff since August.
According to the district’s COVID-19 dashboard, 86.2% of students in grades 7-12 are inoculated and 94% of certified staff has been vaccinated.
“We are seeing very low numbers of positive cases and little to no infection transmissions on our campuses,” Sinnette said. “I am immensely grateful to everyone for rising to the challenges, adhering to the health protocols, and joining together to promote personal wellness and to protect the health of families, friends and colleagues.”