Expert: With Pediatric COVID-19 Vaccinations, ‘It'd Be a Mistake to Say We're Done’

Jay Lieberman, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and the senior medical director of PRA Health Sciences, discusses the value of the pharmacist in administering COVID-19 vaccines to adolescents and children.

Pharmacy Times interviewed Jay Lieberman, MD, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and the senior medical director of PRA Health Sciences, on the value of the pharmacist in administering COVID-19 vaccines to adolescents and children.

Lieberman was a speaker at the World Vaccine Congress in a session on COVID-19 disease and vaccines for adolescents and children, specifically in light of his unique perspective on the subject due to having enrolled his twin daughters in the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine trial.

Alana Hippensteele: In your opinion, what is the value of the pharmacist in administering vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic to children and adults?

Jay Lieberman: Yeah, I think pharmacists and pharmacies can play a very, and are playing a very, important role in vaccinating individuals against COVID-19.

To continue the family affair here, my wife is a hospital pharmacist, and when the vaccine first got licensed, obviously, she got herself vaccinated. She was first in line.

But she also made it her personal mission to vaccinate as many people as possible. That meant learning the systems, and there were challenges in getting in the queue to get back to various sites, and it varied city by city, county by county, state by state.

She worked hard, including waking up at 3 am sometimes to get a family member who was eligible to be vaccinated an appointment at CVS, for example, and so she made that her personal mission.

In addition, she's worked well more than a dozen clinics now in her hospital at community sites. She was at Disneyland administering vaccine. She recruited friends of hers, fellow pharmacists, physicians, nurses to set up a clinic at the site. As a result, I mean thousands of people who would not have been vaccinated that day were able to get vaccinated.

So, the when the rollout first started for vaccination, a lot of it was obviously big pods, big sites. But it's now moved into pharmacies, and finally into physicians’ offices.

So, improving access and people know their local pharmacy, they go there—having access there is a tremendous advance. We want to make it easy for people to be able to get vaccinated.

Alana Hippensteele: Absolutely. On that note, do you think children would feel safe, or I mean, potentially not if Disneyland is the other option, but potentially safer than maybe certain mass vaccination sites at their local pharmacy versus some of these other locations?

Jay Lieberman: Yeah, again, it's what's easily accessible. Where do people feel comfortable? Obviously, pharmacies play an important role in vaccinating adults against influenza, pneumonia, and shingles, and I think COVID-19 fits in very nicely.

So, again, having local access, convenient access enhances the ability for people to get the vaccine when they want it.

Alana Hippensteele: Right. What are your hopes for the future in regard to COVID-19 vaccine development and administration among adolescent and children populations?

Jay Lieberman: Yeah. So, first, I'd comment that obviously in the United States, we've made tremendous progress in reducing the incidence of COVID-19. It's important to understand and recognize that that success is almost entirely due to vaccination.

So, the issue we have now is to increase vaccination rates among adults and now teenagers in the United States who, for whatever reason, might have been hesitant or waiting.

We've got to expand vaccination to younger ages, so in addition to the 12-year-old daughters, we've got a 9-year-old and a 7-year-old, and we want them vaccinated as well.

Again, vaccinating them protects them, it protects us, it protects the people we care about, and allows them to be going back to doing the things that children and teenagers should do.

Jay Lieberman: I also just mentioned how successful we've been in the United States. Unfortunately, not everybody in the world has access, and there are just tragedies ongoing in many parts of the world.

So, vaccines have to get out to them as well. It's not only the right thing to do, the ethical thing to do, the humanitarian thing to do, but it also helps protect us because this virus is global.

The more the virus is allowed to circulate unchecked in communities, the greater the likelihood of new variants emerging. So, we're feeling pretty comfortable in the United States right now, and hopefully things will continue to go smoothly, but it'd be a mistake to say we're done.

Again, the path out is vaccines, and it's got to be global. So, that's the hope for the future, and hopefully for the near future.

Alana Hippensteele: Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today, Dr. Lieberman.

Jay Lieberman: Alana, thank you very much. Really appreciate it.