The City and Borough of Juneau is already preparing to set up COVID shot clinics in area schools starting Nov. 8.

Children ages 5 to 11 may be able to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine next week, after a federal advisory committee for the FDA voted to authorize the shot for young children. While the FDA as an agency still needs to officially green light the vaccine for young children, it typically follows the advisory committee’s conclusions.

In approving the experimental shots, the advisory committee expressed concern about unknowns, but ultimately said the benefits would likely outweigh serious harm to children. Complicating the decision, however, is the fact that children are far less likely than adults to be hospitalized with COVID-19 or suffer long-term consequences.

The FDA advisory committee debated a report which expressed “great uncertainty” regarding the benefits of COVID shots for children.

The move to approve COVID shots for young children is also debated due to reported instances of myocarditis and pericarditis, which cause inflammation in the lining of the heart. According to the CDC-run Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) this occurs at a rate of 71.5 cases per million in vaccinated males (ages 16 to 17) and 42.6 cases per million in males ages 12 to 15. Data on younger children is still pending.

The FDA advisory committee deliberated over a report which expressed “great uncertainty” regarding the estimated benefits of COVID shots for children, and noted that “vaccine efficacy may change due to new emerging variants of virus.” The report also noted that the “risk assessment does not consider potential long-term adverse effects due to either COVID-19 or myocarditis and does not include an assessment of secondary risks from the shot.

Mayo Clinic advises people to call a doctor if they have myocarditis symptoms, which can resemble a heart attack.

According to the Mayo Clinic website, severe myocarditis “weakens your heart so that the rest of your body doesn’t get enough blood. Clots can form in your heart, leading to a stroke or heart attack.”

Common myocarditis signs and symptoms include chest pain, rapid or abnormal heartbeat, shortness of breath, fluid buildup with swelling of legs, ankles and feet, fatigue, and other signs and symptoms of a viral infection such as a headache, body aches, joint pain, fever, a sore throat or diarrhea.

Mayo Clinic advises people to call a doctor if they have myocarditis symptoms, which can resemble a heart attack.

Juneau’s child vaccine clinics will be located in area schools.

Juneau plans to partner with the Juneau Public Health Center, Bartlett Regional Hospital, local pediatricians and other organizations to host free clinics inside school building. According to Juneau’s Deputy City Manager Robert Barr, the shots will require some form of parental consent.

“It is our strong preference that the consent be provided in-person,” he said. “In some circumstances (children coming with a grandparent, as an example), we’ll accept signed consent forms.”

The borough estimates that Juneau has roughly 2,700 children ages 5 to 11 years, and it anticipates receiving about 1,200 Pfizer doses from the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services for the first round of jabs. The vaccines will also be disseminated through Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium, some local pharmacies and the Juneau Public Health Center.

Following the expected FDA approval, the CDC will meet Nov. 2 or Nov. 3 to green light widespread distribution of the child shot.

Juneau’s child vaccine clinics will be located in area schools, though the specific school buildings, dates, and times are still being finalized.

For more information or to express concerns, contact Emergency Operations Center Incident Commander/CBJ Deputy City Manager Robert Barr at 586-5240 or

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Juneau preps to jab kids 5-to-11 with COVID shots despite ‘great uncertainty’

Joel Davidson
Joel is Editor-in-Chief of the Alaska Watchman. Joel is an award winning journalist and has been reporting for over 24 years, He is a proud father of 8 children, and lives in Palmer, Alaska.