This article was originally published by Oregon Public Broadcasting.
COVID-19 booster shots are, as of last month, approved for kids 5 to 11 years old.
If you’ve run into trouble scheduling your child for a booster shot though, you’re not alone.
Eliza Hayes Bakken is the medical director of the pediatrics clinic at Oregon Health and Science University’s Doernbecher Children’s hospital. She says the bivalent booster supply has been “stop and go” for clinics like the one she runs.
“We quickly saw that the demand for that vaccine outstripped our ability to keep it in stock,” she said.
Hayes Bakken says OHSU has opted not to do big vaccination events due to the unpredictable booster supply. Instead, they are offering the shots for patients who already have appointments at the clinic, and opening up online scheduling for the boosters as they become available.
Not every health system is reporting difficulties keeping the vaccine in stock. Kaiser Permanente, for example, says they had initial shortages in supply for 5- to 11-year-olds, but now have ample supply and appointments should be available for Kaiser members within seven days.
According to OHA and Hayes Bakken, the most surefire way to find a bivalent booster for a child or an adult is to look for appointments through community pharmacies. They have received the bulk of the state’s booster supply.
“Look beyond your pediatrician if you’re having issues,” said OHA spokesman Jonathan Modie.
Hayes Baaken says many community pharmacies still have appointments available and have staff experienced in vaccinating younger children.
Costco, Walgreens and Safeway are among the local pharmacies offering COVID-19 boosters for kids ages 5 to 11. You can find a full list on the CDC website, vaccines.gov.
Moderna bivalent boosters are authorized for children 6 and up, while Pfizer bivalent boosters are authorized for children 5 and up. The boosters have to be given at least two months after completion of the primary vaccine series.
The CDC recommends bivalent boosters for everyone 5 and up.
The decision to expand approval of the boosters to children and adolescents was based on the observed safety record of the original COVID-19 vaccine in those age groups, as well as some limited safety and efficacy data from clinical trials of monovalent boosters in children and adolescents.
However, it comes with a caveat: Getting kids and adolescents who’ve already been vaccinated a booster dose is lower priority.
More important is getting more children and adolescents to complete their primary series, which still has the greatest potential to reduce serious illness and death from COVID-19.
Primary series vaccines are available for anyone 6 months and older, but the vaccination rate is lower for younger age groups. In Oregon, 11% of children younger than 5 have completed their primary series, while 37% of 5- to 11-year-olds and 63% of 12- to 17-year-olds have done the same.