U.S. to begin vaccinating young children against covid

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Eighteen months after a New York nurse received the first U.S. coronavirus vaccination, immunizations became available Tuesday for millions of children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years, the last group of Americans to be afforded that protection.

Pediatricians, drugstores, hospitals and community vaccination centers began to administer first doses of two vaccines to children: the Pfizer-BioNTech product to children ages 6 months through 4 years; and the Moderna vaccine to children 6 months through 5 years old.

Some parents rushed to get the vaccine early Tuesday morning. In Washington, D.C., Chinmay Hegde’s 14-month-old daughter Ada was the first child to receive a shot Tuesday morning at Children’s National Hospital. She winced as the needle went in, but it wasn’t as bad as her routine vaccinations.

“The last time we came here she ended up getting five shots in the same day,” Hegde said. “I think the fact that there was only one, she was like, ‘Oh great, good deal.’ ”

At a city-run covid center on U Street, a line of parents and strollers snaked around the corner as Asia Perazich waited with her 3-year-old son Mica and 1-year-old daughter Zia.

“I wish it had happened sooner,” Perazich said as Mica doodled in a watercolor book. “It’ll be nice to be able to take them to a restaurant and not worry.”

In Houston, Jim Versalovic, pathologist-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital, said: “We began vaccinating the first children at 6 a.m. We have shots in arms now. We have hundreds of children lining up, and our goal is to get this vaccine to thousands of children in the greater Houston area and Texas.

“The children are handling it as well or better than the adults,” he added.

President Biden spoke Tuesday afternoon at the White House, calling the development affecting as many as 19 million children nationwide “a very historic milestone, a monumental step forward.” He said the United States is now the first nation to offer vaccine to children as young as six months and urged parents to get their children vaccinated. Biden earlier visited a city-run coronavirus center where vaccines were being offered to children.

Nancy Wyss of Chicago said she scheduled an appointment to vaccinate her 3-year-old daughter next week. Wyss said she has been waiting for this moment for the “health and protection” of her daughter and so the family can feel safer when they visit the girl’s grandparents.

Wyss said the vaccine will also help “my own sanity.” Wyss said her daughter’s day care currently closes if a child or teacher gets coronavirus; once children are vaccinated they will keep the center open if there is a case. The vaccine will also ease Wyss’s worries about flying.

“We are going on a trip at the beginning of August, so it makes us more comfortable flying with her and seeing her grandparents. It’s exciting. We’ve been waiting a long time,” she said.

For parents who have been eager to vaccinate their children, Tuesday was the end of a long, difficult period when babies, toddlers and preschool-aged children did not have access to vaccines that have proved highly effective in preventing death and hospitalization for the rest of the population.

But a Kaiser Family Foundation Covid-19 Vaccine Monitor poll released in May found them to be a distinct minority. Eighteen percent of parents with children younger than 5 said they were eager to get the youngsters vaccinated immediately. More than a third of parents — 38 percent — said they planned to see how the vaccine works in other children, and 27 percent reported they would “definitely not” have their children vaccinated. Eleven percent said they would do so if required.

The survey was taken before the Food and Drug Administration found the vaccines safe and effective for the youngest children and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave them the green light Saturday.

In some places, there was an initial rush for appointments. “It really has only been about 24 hours since vaccine was delivered and our call center has been inundated with phone calls about getting this vaccine,” said Mary Zimmerman, a nurse and immunizations specialist for Spectrum Health in Michigan.

In New York, there was a one-day delay while vaccine sites awaited final approval from the state Health Department. Matthew Harris, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Queens and medical director of the coronavirus vaccine program at Northwell Health, said vaccinations for children under 5 in New York City would likely begin Wednesday.

Florida, which refused to preorder vaccine until the administration of Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) backed off and allowed doctors to request it Friday, is unlikely to see any vaccinations until later this week, according to the state Department of Health. The state government, which does not recommend the vaccine for healthy…

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