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Maine health care systems, school districts prepare to vaccinate kids against COVID-19

MaineHealth, Northern Light Health, and the Lewiston School Department are preparing to vaccinate kids ages 5-11 once the FDA gives the green light.

MAINE, USA — Pfizer has submitted data to the Food and Drug Administration to approve its COVID-19 vaccine for children. Health care providers in Maine are preparing for when it gets approved.

"We're planning on going back into the schools sometime later this fall, hopefully around Halloween or so, just as we did in the spring," MaineHealth Chief Health Improvement Officer Dr. Dora Mills said.

MaineHealth said it vaccinated roughly 5,000 kids ages 12 and up in 70 middle and high schools before the summer break.

"We've been in touch with some of the school districts that we worked with last spring. We want to hold some Zoom town halls as we did last spring with parents, often times several evenings before the vaccine clinic, just to answer questions," Mills said.

Northern Light Health said it's also considering vaccine clinics in schools. It has administered more than 14,000 doses to kids 12 to 18.

"We really hope people kind of utilize their primary care or pediatric office, but if we have to, we will certainly reach out to communities," said Dr. James Jarvis, physician leader, Incident Command, at Northern Light Health. "We actually started talking about how we could divide this state up. Right now, actually, the state school nurses group has already kind of looked at how they can already do that and then we might just be able to supply them with the vaccine," 

Lewiston Superintendent Jake Langlais is one of the school administrators waiting for the FDA approval. He said the number of COVID-19 cases in and around his schools is rising.

"We're having some things pop up in community things around youth sports and youth activities," Langlais said.

He said last year, the district transported kids to vaccine clinics, and is now discussing what to do this time.

"If we will host those on-site at schools, working with medical partners, or if we will try to facilitate things through the other vaccine clinics that are still set up. We're looking to help facilitate in any way that we can," Langlais said.

A formal submission to request emergency use authorization for that age group is expected in the coming weeks.