Parents waiting anxiously for their children to get vaccinated might soon get a sigh of relief.
San Francisco announced on Friday that it is moving ahead with preparations for immunizing children ages 5 to 11 as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration continues to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12.
“We anticipate a capacity to administer 25,000 vaccine doses per week across these sites to collectively meet demand from eligible children, adults seeking first-time vaccination, and third-dose boosters for those who qualify,” officials at the San Francisco Department of Public Health said in a statement. “We must underscore that our highest priority will be to ensure access to first and second doses for all members of our community, including children ages 5-11 when they become eligible.”
The announcement comes alongside the release of a statewide COVID-19 Vaccine Action Plan explaining how California is gearing up for administering booster shots to immunocompromised and other eligible populations, as well as children under 12.
Although San Francisco schools have so far avoided a COVID-19 vaccine mandate for students, citing the San Francisco Unified School District’s high vaccination rate among eligible students already, other Bay Area districts such as Oakland Unified, as well as the state’s largest school district, Los Angeles Unified, have opted to require the shot for eligible students.
State health officials are similarly exploring requiring children 12 and older to get vaccinated in order to attend school.
“That conversation is part of what we’re considering as a state, but no definitive action is being made at the moment,” Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. Mark Ghaly said during a press briefing about the state vaccination plan. “It’s been a long conversation about vaccines in schools and their role in protecting students. … We are watching the experience in Los Angeles, understanding what it means for students and families alike and staff as well, watching other counties consider the same.”
The FDA issued approval Wednesday of an extra dose of the two-dose Pfizer vaccine for those 65 and older as well as people ages 12-64 who are at higher risk of serious illness because of some medical conditions or the nature of their job.
But the FDA and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are still at odds over who should get a booster shot. On Thursday, a CDC panel approved additional doses only for people over 65 years old and people 50-64 with underlying medical conditions.
Once fully approved by the CDC in addition to the FDA, people eligible for booster doses will be advised to get them at least six months after getting their second dose of the vaccine.
As federal health officials continue to debate, The City is gearing up for another vaccine push including younger San Franciscans. It plans to utilize around 100 vaccination sites across San Francisco, including the doctor’s offices, neighborhood clinics, pharmacies and school-based sites that have already been offering COVID-19 vaccines. The sites have the capacity to administer 200 to 300 doses per day, according to local public health officials.
About 81% of the eligible population was fully vaccinated in San Francisco as of Sept. 24.
“Once the appropriate state and federal approvals are issued and individuals are eligible, we encourage people to make appointments for boosters and vaccinations at their health care homes,” officials at the Department of Public Health said.