Vaccine for teens arriving here soon

Requirements for the Pfizer vaccine, now authorized for those as young as 12, make it a little more challenging for local providers. As such, just one location in Allen County is offering it and by appointment only.

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May 20, 2021 - 10:04 AM

Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas offers a full-service clinic in Iola, and added a walk-in clinic with expanded hours at the beginning of the pandemic. Photo by Vickie Moss / Iola Register

Teenagers and children as young as 12 soon will be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Allen County, but only at one local clinic, the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, and only by appointment. 

That’s because ultra-cold freezers are necessary to store the Pfizer vaccine — the only vaccine approved for children and teens — and are not available locally, requiring a workaround.

None of the local pharmacies or clinics have the required cold storage capacity, representatives said when contacted by the Register. That includes the Southeast Kansas Multi-County Health Departments, Iola Pharmacy and Walmart, who continue to provide the Moderna and/or Johnson & Johnson vaccines. 

Allen County Regional Hospital, which earlier administered the Pfizer vaccine to its employees, has not received vaccine for distribution to the general public. 

THE CHALLENGE with the Pfizer vaccine, other than its storage, is that once a vial has been punctured, it must be used within six hours.

To solve the problem, the CHC/SEK has arranged for Via Christi Hospital in Pittsburg to store the Pfizer vaccine for CHC/SEK’s clinics, said Robert Poole, a spokesman for the clinics.

That way, doses of the vaccine can be brought to Iola in batches and quickly administered. Hence the need for scheduling in advance.

The CHC/SEK will begin accepting appointments in the next couple of days, Poole said.

And because the vaccine is for children and teenagers, it will require consent from a parent or legal guardian. That means additional paperwork.

“It’s a little more complicated, but nothing we can’t work through,” Poole said. 

“We’re very interested in getting the vaccine to those who want it.”

So far, CHC/SEK clinics have received requests for the vaccine but the demand has not yet been high, Poole said. That could change once appointments are scheduled and the clinic starts to promote the service, he said. 

The Pfizer vaccine requires two doses about three weeks apart for full immunization. 

To schedule an appointment, go to chcsek.org and click the button labeled “COVID-19 Vaccination Request” in the center of the page.

THE CDC recommends everyone age 12 and older get the COVID-19 vaccine, even though children tend to get infected at lower rates than adults and typically have milder symptoms.

Still, some children can develop serious complications.

After vaccination, some children may develop mild symptoms such as pain, redness or tenderness at the site of the injection. They also could experience tiredness, headache, fever, chills, muscle pain or nausea. 

There is no charge for the vaccine. 

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