Nearly 3 million Texas kids eligible for COVID-19 vaccine
Dr. Rhonda Achonolu comforts her son Amechi, 7, as he is inoculated with first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children five to 12 years at The Children's Hospital at Montefiore, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021, in the Bronx borough of New York. The U.S. enters a new phase Wednesday in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, with shots now available to millions of elementary-age children in what health officials hailed as a major breakthrough after more than 18 months of illness, hospitalizations, deaths and disrupted education. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

The city of Houston is partnering with Texas Children’s Hospital to host a mass vaccination clinic Friday, with the aim of vaccinating 5,000 or more people before the holidays. 

“This vaccine is the best gift that you can give to others, as well as yourself,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said during a press conference announcing the clinic. “What we want to do is just make it available to you.” 

The clinic will be held at the George R. Brown convention center on Friday, December 17 from noon to 8 p.m. There will be vaccines available for everyone age 5 and older, including adults. Houston Metro is providing free rides to the clinic, and parking at the convention center for the event is free.

Roughly 63% of Harris County residents age 5 and older have received both doses of the vaccine, according to data from the state health department

The city’s vaccination push comes as local health officials are worried about the spread of the Omicron variant ahead of the holidays

The vaccine clinic is designed to target families. Turner said children at the clinic will receive a toy and coloring book to take home. Someone dressed as Santa Claus will also be at the convention center. 

The mayor said as of yesterday 3,888 people have died from COVID-19 in Houston. 

Almost 1,000 children have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. and more than six million have been infected nationwide, said Dr. Julie Boom, the co-chair of Texas Children’s Hospital’s vaccine task force and director of the hospital’s immunization project. 

“It’s really a myth that it doesn’t affect children,” Boom said. “It’s important to realize this. If your child gets hospitalized, one-third of those children end up in the ICU.”

Boom said nine out of 10 vaccinated children won’t contract COVID-19 and encouraged parents to vaccinate their eligible children.

“If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines until now, which I know many parents have, it’s really time to get off the sidelines and come into the field and vaccinate your child,” she said. “We want your child to be protected against COVID.” 

The Center for Disease Control approved emergency use of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 Nov. 2.

The COVID-19 vaccine for children under 5 years old is expected to be ready for approval for emergency use by early 2022 and ready for distribution during the first quarter of next year.

Texas Children’s is part of the national study of vaccines for kids under age 5. At the press conference on Monday, Dr. Flor Munoz, the director of transplant infectious diseases at Texas Children’s Hospital, said the national study hopes to have enough data collected to present a packet to the FDA for approval by early 2022. 

Once the CDC approves it for emergency use, Munoz said children under 5 can start receiving the vaccine. Based on how the clinical trials are going, she said that could be as early as the first quarter of 2022.

The clinical trial has determined that children under 5 need one-tenth of an adult dose to produce the same number of antibodies as adults, said Munoz, who’s an associate professor of pediatrics and infectious diseases at Baylor College of Medicine. She said the lower dose means children in the under-five age group tolerate the vaccine well.

“They have almost no reactions,” Munoz said. “They tolerate it so well that sometimes when parents try to guess whether they had a vaccine or placebo in the trial, it’s impossible.”