Pediatric COVID-19 vaccine shots beginning around North Dakota | Health

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Pediatric COVID-19 vaccine is slowly becoming available around North Dakota for children ages 6 months to 5 years, including in Bismarck.

Federal officials a week ago signed off on the shot for the age group and ordered millions of doses for distribution around the country. North Dakota’s initial order was 5,700 doses. An estimated 50,000 North Dakota children are in the newly approved age group, according to the state Health Department. 

“As facilities start vaccination of children down to 6 months of age, they will add their availability to vaccines.gov,” state Immunization Program Director Molly Howell told the Tribune on Friday. “Many North Dakota facilities just received vaccine on Wednesday and are educating their staff and setting up protocols. I am aware that Thrifty White Pharmacies have opened up appointments.”

Both Pfizer and Moderna have pediatric vaccines for the new age group. Federal officials say the shots offer young children protection from hospitalization, death and possible long-term complications that are still not clearly understood.

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Sanford Health Bismarck began offering the Pfizer vaccine on Friday. 

“We have been waiting for this moment for more than two years. We can now offer a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine to everyone over 6 months of age,” Dr. Danielle Thurtle, a Sanford pediatrician, said in a statement. “This will not only prevent illness in younger children, but decrease spread in communities and protect vulnerable populations as well.”

Appointments can be made through My Sanford Chart or by calling a Sanford Health primary care clinic.

CHI St. Alexius Health will begin offering the vaccine for the new age group in coming weeks, spokesman Jeremy Fettig said. For more information, go to chistalexiushealth.org/COVID19vaccine.

Weekly data

There were 1,222 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota over the past week, a drop from the previous week’s total of 1,329, according to the Health Department’s pandemic dashboard. This week’s total for Burleigh-Morton counties also was down slightly, to 212.

The state has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases since late April due to highly contagious mutations of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.

“We continue to watch the three emerging omicron sublineages — BA.2.12.1, BA.4, BA.5,” state Medical Services Section Chief Kirby Kruger said, adding, “The main concern is that these sublineages continue to (have) the increased ability to escape antibodies. The concern is that this could lead to more reinfections and more illness among those vaccinated. The good news is that hospitalizations are tending to be relatively stable.”

New COVID-19 hospital admissions statewide totaled 50, down from 84 the previous week. Coronavirus patients made up about 2.5% of occupied inpatient beds and 1.5% of intensive care unit beds statewide. Both percentages declined slightly from the previous week.

Federal data showed seven virus-related deaths over the week, raising North Dakota’s pandemic total to 2,294. County-level death data is not available. There have been 248,961 confirmed COVID-19 cases in North Dakota during the pandemic that began in March 2020.

More information

Federal data shows that North Dakota continues to have some of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates in the country: 66.6% of adults in the state are fully vaccinated, with the rate for all vaccine-eligible people — age 5 and older — at 60.2%. The national averages are 76.8% and 71.1%, respectively. 

COVID-19 booster shots are recommended for people 12 and older. North Dakota’s first booster rate is 45%, compared to 49% nationally. Second booster doses are available for three main groups of people:

  • All adults 50 years and older.
  • All people 12 years or older who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.
  • Adults 18 to 49 years who received two doses of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. 

County-level COVID-19 risks determined by the CDC can be found at https://bit.ly/3Clifrq. Thirteen North Dakota counties including Burleigh and Morton are now in the medium risk category; four counties are at high risk. The rest are are low risk.

State Health Department guidance and resources for businesses is at https://bit.ly/3w0DpKj

Go to https://www.ndvax.org or https://bit.ly/3N3IMxb or call 866-207-2880 to see where COVID-19 vaccine is available. Information on free public testing and free test kits is at health.nd.gov/covidtesting. More detailed pandemic information is at www.health.nd.gov/coronavirus and https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html.

Reach News Editor Blake Nicholson at 701-250-8266 or blake.nicholson@bismarcktribune.com.

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