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Planning stages for child inoculations

Los Angeles County health officials this week again urged eligible residents to get COVID-19 vaccine booster shots, while they also prepared for anticipated federal approval of vaccinations for children aged 5 to 11.

A U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Tuesday recommended approval of an emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children as young as 5. FDA officials still need to approve the recommendation, along with a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory committee and the CDC director.

Pfizer’s vaccine is currently authorized under emergency use for children aged 12-15, and it has full authorization for people aged 16 and older.

“After reviewing safety and efficacy data, the FDA’s vaccine advisory panel met [on Tuesday] and recommended Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11, bringing us closer to expanding vaccine access to 900,000 L.A. County children,’’ county Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said in a statement. “Fully vaccinated children will be better protected at schools, youth activities, holiday gatherings and celebrations, and homes. Once the CDC issues final approval and guidance, the county is prepared to begin offering doses to younger children as early as late next week through our vast network of countywide providers.’’

County health officials also continued to advocate for booster shots, 30,000 of which were administered in the county between Oct. 22-24. As of Oct. 24, a total of 425,000 booster doses of vaccine have reportedly been administered in the county.

The county estimates that 3.6 million residents are eligible for the boosters. Under federal guidelines, boosters are available for people who are: 

— 65 years of age or older; 

— aged 18 and older and living in long-term care settings; 

— aged 18 and older with underlying medical conditions; and 

— aged 18 and older and living or working in high-risk settings.

Under federal guidelines, people can receive a different brand of booster shot than their original doses.

People who received the two-dose Pfizer or Moderna shots should not receive a booster until at least six months after their last dose. For the single-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine, people must wait at least two months after their shot.

According to numbers released Thursday, 79 percent of eligible county residents aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, and 71 percent are fully vaccinated.

The county by midweek had reported 20 new COVID-19 deaths, raising the overall death toll to 26,572. Another 827 cases were also reported, raising the cumulative total from throughout the pandemic to 1,486,614.

The rolling average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 0.9 percent as of Wednesday morning.

According to state figures, there were 650 COVID-positive patients in county hospitals as of Tuesday, up from 629 on Monday. Of those patients, 179 were in intensive care, up from 170 a day earlier.

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