Little Fletcher Pack woke up Monday morning and asked: “Is today vaccine day?”
For the 3-year-old from Lexington, South Carolina, the answer was yes.
The nation’s infants, toddlers and preschoolers are finally getting their chance at COVID-19 vaccination as the U.S. rolls out shots for tots this week. Some ships arrived at certain locations this weekend, and some places, such as a Walgreens store in South Carolina or one in New York City opened appointments Monday.
Fletcher’s mother said that once her son is fully vaccinated, he can finally go bowling and visit the nearby children’s museum.
“He’s never really played with another kid inside before,” McKenzie Pack said. “This will be a really big change for our family.”
She began seeking an appointment last week as U.S. regulators took steps to OK the vaccines for kids 6 months to 5 years old.
“It’s just relief,” said Pack. “With this vaccine, that’ll be his best shot at going back to normal and having a normal childhood.”
The Food and Drug Administration greenlighted the Moderna and Pfizer kid shot s on Friday and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended them Saturday. In the U.S., COVID-19 vaccines were first tested and given in late 2020 to health care workers and older adults. Last year, school-age children and teens were also added.
“This is certainly an exciting moment in what has become a very long campaign to vaccinate people against COVID-19,”said Dr. Matthew Harris, an emergency room pediatrician at Northwell Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York.
Many parents have been anxiously awaiting the rollout, and Harris said shots for his own 9-month-old are a “matter of when, not if.”
Roughly 18 million youngsters under 5 are eligible. It’s just one step towards normalcy,” stated Dr. Debra Langlois at University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
“We’re two-plus years into this pandemic and there’s things that my 4-year-old has never been able to do,” Langlois said. The family skipped trips to Disneyland, a Michigan tourist island and Mackinac Island because they were afraid that the ferry ride would allow them to mix with other unmasked people.
President Joe Biden, public health authorities and pediatricians hailed the moment. But they also acknowledged that getting some parents on board may be a challenge given disappointing vaccination rates — about 30% — in school-age kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics was among the physician associations that encouraged families and doctors to have young children immunized.
The CDC advises vaccination even for those who already had COVID-19 to protect against reinfection, and says it is OK to get other vaccines at the same time. For the littlest kids, there’s Pfizer’s three-shot series or Moderna’s two shots.
In New York’s largely Latino neighborhood of Washington Heights, Dr. Juan Tapia Mendoza’s clinic has ordered 300 doses of the tot-sized vaccines. He said he needs educational materials that directly address misinformation spreading among parents.
His approach will be to tell parents “if they were my kids, I would vaccinate them.”
“Because the virus is still around. A lot of people are still dying because of coronavirus Kids do get infected and some kids get severely affected and nobody wants to see a child very sick.”
Some hospitals planned vaccination events later this week. Chicago is among locations that offer COVID-19 shots in people’s homes and planned to open registration this week for home appointments for infants and other young children, said Maribel Chavez-Torres, a deputy commission for the city’s Department of Public Health.
Dr. Pam Zeitland is the director of pediatric medicine at National Jewish Health Denver. She recommends that parents have their children vaccinated immediately.
“Parents may be afraid their child will get side effects from vaccines if they are young, however, Moderna and Pfizer studies have shown otherwise. Side effects were similar to what is seen with other childhood vaccines — fever, irritability and fatigue.
AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson contributed.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. All content is the sole responsibility of the Associated Press.
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