Johnson County health officials urge patience as families line up for kids’ COVID shots — what you need to know

Johnson County Phase 2 vaccine

Local health officials urge parents and families to talk to their child's pediatrician if they have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine. A number of local hospitals and private pharmacies are offering vaccination slots for children, but the county health department's vaccine clinic is booked through the end of November. File image.

Pfizer COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11 are now being administered in Johnson County, but local health officials are urging families to be patient, noting that the effort to distribute and administer shots to everyone who wants one will take time and planning, especially in the early stages.

“I think the summary points are that it’s safe and effective,” Jennifer Watts, MD, a pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital said on Friday during a teleconference hosted by the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment. “If you have questions, talk to your pediatrician. But my last request is be patient.”

In Johnson County, there are slightly fewer than 56,000 children eligible for vaccinations, according to Sanmi Areola, Ph.D., the county’s public health director.

The local vaccination effort has already begun, he said, and will continue in an effort to vaccinate anyone wishing to be vaccinated. Here are some questions you may have about getting a child in your family vaccinated.

How many pediatric vaccine doses are available?

  • JCDHE has secured roughly 1,200 doses, and  Areola said more are expected to come in soon. But he said Friday that “the vaccines are coming in at a fairly slow rate right now.”
  • More doses will continue to be received by the state of Kansas for its federal allotment of vaccines, and JCDHE officials will be working to administer the vaccination as quickly as possible to the community to meet what they say has been high demand for vaccines for kids.
  • Children’s Mercy has locations in both Missouri and Kansas, and that hospital is receiving its own allotment of vaccines from the federal government.
  • The Pfizer vaccine is currently the only vaccine given emergency use authorization for children in the 5-11 age group. An additional dose will be needed three weeks following the first dose.

Are vaccination appointments filling up?

  • JCDHE will began administering vaccinations to children on Monday, and officials say appointments are currently booked through the end of the week.
  • At the time of this writing, the next available appointment for a JCDHE clinic is Nov 29.
  • Appointments will continue to be accepted going forward, so continue to check the JCDHE website.
  • Children’s Mercy will also update appointment availability as vaccinations continue at their Kansas City area locations.

Where else can we check for a vaccine?

  • Areola and Watts both stressed the importance of checking with your pediatrician or primary care doctor to see if child vaccinations are available through their private practice.
  • Besides JCDHE’s vaccine clinic in Mission and Children’s Mercy, there are a number of local hospital systems offering pediatric COVID vaccines, including Saint Luke’s, Olathe Health, and HCA Midwest.
  • An appointment is necessary for these distributors, and it is highly recommended to call or check online for appointment availability.
  • You can also visit vaccine.gov to find vaccine availability near you.

Are pharmacies offering the vaccine?

  • Yes, vaccines for kids are also available at private pharmacies across Johnson County.
  • CVS, Walgreens, HyVee and Balls Foods (which owns Price Chopper and Hen House) all have pediatric COVID-19 vaccines, but check the availability of your closest location. At most locations an appointment is necessary.
  • On Monday, one person tweeted that the Price Chopper at 75th and Metcalf was offering walk-in vaccinations for kids, showing a picture of a line outside the clinic.
  • Again, you can check the closest location using your zip code at vaccine.gov.

What if I have doubts or am hesitant about getting my child vaccinated?

  • Local health officials encourage you to talk to your child’s pediatrician, as they will continue to be the best source if you have any questions or doubts about the vaccine or your children’s health.
  • “Most likely if you have children, you trust your pediatrician for all things health related when it comes to your kids and COVID-19 is no different,” Watts said on Friday.
  • As pediatric vaccines continue to be distributed more pediatricians will have access to the vaccine across Kansas and Missouri and will begin offering them at their offices.

Can children get their flu shot and COVID-19 shot at the same time?

  • Yes. The flu shot and COVID-19 vaccine are being recommended by pediatricians and doctors at this time.

Is the children’s vaccine different than the one given to adults?

  • The dosage is smaller for the pediatric vaccine, based on age and not the weight of the child.
  • The pediatric version of the vaccine contains 10 micrograms — or one-third — of the active ingredient in the regular adult dose. The vaccine was tested based on the age and maturity of the children’s body and organs, not the size or weight of the child, health officials say.

How long before a child needs the second dose?

  • Similar to the adult dose, a second dose is needed for the pediatric vaccine.
  • A second dose should be administered around three weeks after the first.
  • A child should receive a date after which their second dose should be administered when they receive their first dose.

Can older kids and adults still get vaccinated?

  • Yes, while JCDHE is devoting more of its resources to giving out the pediatric vaccine, shots for older groups are still available and encouraged if you have not been vaccinated.
  • Vaccination events can be found here and will be updated on an ongoing basis.
  • There are also FAQ’s on Children’s Mercy website for more information which has also been translated into Spanish.