COVID vaccine for youngest kids rollout across US

Around 18 million young people under the age of 5 are now eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine.

LEXINGTON, SC — Little Fletcher Pack woke up Monday morning and asked, “Is today immunization 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 shot at a COVID-19 shot as the US rolls out infant immunizations this week. Deliveries arrived in some locations over the weekend and some locations, including a Walgreens in South Carolina and another in New York City, opened appointments for Monday.

Fletcher’s mother said that once her son is fully vaccinated, he will finally be able to go bowling and visit the nearby children’s museum.

“He’s never really played indoors with any other kid,” McKenzie Pack said. “It’s going to be a really big change for our family.”

She began seeking an appointment last week as US regulators took steps to approve the vaccines for children ages 6 months to 5 years.

“It’s just a relief,” Pack said. “With this vaccine, this is his best chance of getting back to normal and having a normal childhood.”

The Food and Drug Administration gave the green light to the Moderna and Pfizer children’s syringes on Friday, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended them on Saturday. In the United States, COVID-19 vaccines were first tested and given to healthcare workers and older adults in late 2020. Teenagers and school-age children have joined in the past year.

“This is certainly an exciting moment in what is now a very long campaign to vaccinate people against COVID-19,” said Dr. Matthew Harris, emergency room pediatrician at Northwell Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New York.

Many parents have been eagerly awaiting the launch, and Harris said getting shots for his own 9-month-old was a “matter of when, not if.”

Around 18 million young people under the age of 5 are eligible to participate.

“It’s just a big step towards normalcy,” said Dr. Debra Langlois, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan Health’s CS Mott Children’s Hospital.

“We’re more than two years into this pandemic and there are things that my 4-year-old has never been able to do,” Langlois said.

The family skipped a trip to Disneyland and a popular vacation island in Michigan because the ferry ride to Mackinac Island would mean mingling with exposed passengers.

President Joe Biden, health officials and pediatricians hailed the moment. However, they also acknowledged that getting some parents on board could be a challenge given disappointing vaccination rates – around 30% – among school-age children.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association were among the medical groups that encouraged doctors and families to vaccinate young children.

The CDC also advises vaccination for those who have already had COVID-19 to protect themselves from being infected again, and says it’s okay to get other vaccines at the same time. For the little ones there is the three-shot series from Pfizer or the two-shot series from Moderna.

The clinic of dr. Juan Tapia Mendoza in New York’s largely Latin American neighborhood of Washington Heights has ordered 300 tot-sized doses of the vaccines. He said he needs educational materials that directly address the spread of misinformation among parents.

His approach will be to tell parents, “If they were my children, I would vaccinate them.”

“Because the virus is still there. Many people are still dying from coronavirus. Kids get infected and some kids get badly affected and nobody wants to see a very sick kid.”

Some hospitals were planning vaccination events later this week. Chicago is among places offering COVID-19 shots in people’s homes and plans to open registration for home appointments for infants and other young children this week, said Maribel Chavez-Torres, a deputy commission for the city’s health department.

dr Pam Zeitland, director of pediatric medicine at National Jewish Health in Denver, recommends parents get their children vaccinated as soon as possible.

“Some parents worry that the younger the child, the more vulnerable they are to vaccine side effects,” Zeitland said, but that’s not what studies from Pfizer and Moderna found. The side effects were similar to other vaccines for children – fever, irritability and fatigue.

AP Medical Writer Carla K. Johnson contributed. COVID vaccine for youngest kids rollout across US

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