US begins vaccinating young children against coronavirus

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Eighteen months after a New York City nurse received America’s first coronavirus vaccine, vaccinations became available on Tuesday for millions of children aged 6 months to 5 years, the latest group of Americans to benefit of this protection.

Pediatricians, pharmacies, hospitals and community immunization centers have begun administering the first doses of two vaccines to children: the Pfizer-BioNTech product to children aged 6 months to 4 years; and the Moderna vaccine for children 6 months to 5 years old.

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

“Last time we came here, she ended up getting five injections on the same day,” Hegde said. “I think the fact that there was only one, she was like, ‘Oh great, great 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 this had happened sooner,” Perazich said as Mica doodled in a watercolor book. “It will be nice to be able to take them to a restaurant and not worry.”

In Houston, Jim Versalovic, chief pathologist at Texas Children’s Hospital, said: “We started vaccinating the first children at 6 a.m. We now have gunshots in our arms. 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 in Texas.

“Children do just as well if not better than 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 was now the first country to offer a vaccine to children as young as six months old and urged parents to get their children vaccinated. Biden earlier visited a city-run coronavirus center where vaccines were offered to children.

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

Wyss said the vaccine will also help “my own mental health.” Wyss said her daughter’s daycare currently closes if a child or teacher catches coronavirus; once the children are vaccinated, they will keep the center open if there is a case. The vaccine will also allay Wyss’ worries about the plane.

“We’re going on a trip in early August, so it makes us feel more comfortable flying with her and seeing her grandparents. It’s exiting. We’ve been waiting a long time,” she said.

For parents who have been eager to get their children immunized, Tuesday marked the end of a long and difficult period during which babies, toddlers and preschoolers did not have access to vaccines which have proven to be very effective in prevent deaths and hospitalizations for the rest of the population.

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

The survey was done before the Food and Drug Administration found the vaccines safe and effective for younger children and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave them the go-ahead on Saturday.

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

In New York, there was a one-day delay while vaccination sites awaited final approval from the state health department. Matthew Harris, pediatric emergency 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 age 5 in New York would likely begin on Wednesday.

Florida, which refused to pre-order the vaccine until Governor Ron DeSantis’ (R) administration backed down and allowed doctors to order it on Friday, is unlikely to see any vaccine until the end of the week, the department says. of State Health. The state government, which does not recommend the vaccine for healthy children, was the only one in the country not to pre-order the vaccine.

Biden said Tuesday that “elected officials shouldn’t get in the way and make it harder” for parents who want to see their children vaccinated. “Now is not the time for politics.”

About 13.5 million children have tested positive for the virus, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, giving them some protection against it. According to federal health data that analyzed blood tests, the number is even higher – in late February it showed that 3 out of 4 children nationwide had been infected with the coronavirus.

Coronavirus case tracking

But health authorities say all children should be vaccinated, as it is the best way to provide children with long-lasting protection and reduce the risk of further infection and complications.

Children are less likely than other people in other age groups to get seriously ill from the virus, but they are not invulnerable. More than 1,000 have died, more than 40,000 have been hospitalized, and more than 8,500 have suffered from a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), which can cause inflammation of the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, eyes and other organs. , According to the CDC.

Houston’s mother, Brittany Kruger, said Tuesday that she will not be vaccinating her children.

“My kids got covid, and the only reason we knew about it was because we had it. So we tested them. They showed no symptoms, much like the majority of children we know,” she said. “I feel like my kids, at their age, have very little risk of side effects from covid. In fact, I’m more afraid of what a newer shot on the market would do in the long run .

But Amisha Vakil, who has 3-year-old twins Jiyan and Kian, one of whom is at high risk awaiting a heart transplant, was at Texas Children’s at 6:30 a.m. to have the two children vaccinated.

“To have my two children vaccinated today means a lot to us, especially to give Jiyan this shield, a little armor,” she said.

“For the past two years, we’ve been pretty much in quarantine,” she added. “We couldn’t send them to kindergarten or activities. Kian stayed home too, because he could take something home with him.

Coronavirus vaccine tracking

Nearly 67% of the US population is vaccinated – a proportion that has barely increased in recent months despite the efforts of government and private health officials. The virus has killed more than a million Americans, the highest known total of any nation in the world.

At Seattle Children’s Hospital, parents and their children stood outside the vaccination room for 15 minutes. Some children had barely uttered their first words, and others, agitated, rushed through the halls. The hospital was prepared; Seattle Storm’s Doppler mascot has arrived to give the kids a 7ft red and yellow furry distraction.

Erin Murphy, who was in hospital with her 3-year-old son, said covid protections prevented him from attending his great-grandfather’s funeral and he stayed home with his father . Now the boy has joined his family to get vaccinated and has documentary evidence to prove it.

“Everyone had a picture when they got vaccinated, and now he has his,” Murphy said.

Edwin Lindo, who teaches critical race theory at the University of Washington Medical School, was among the first in line and sees vaccinating his two young children as a step against the inequalities exposed by the pandemic. When his 8-month-old son was infected two months ago, “it was scary,” he said. Lindo took the baby to the hospital while he was sick – and brought him back on Tuesday for a shot.

“It’s our way of fighting and saying we’re not going to be a product of the legacy of racism, we’re not going to succumb to being a statistic. We’re going to live another day to fight, so that we can actually change the results of our community,” Lindo said.

Mark Del Beccaro, deputy deputy chief of coronavirus testing and vaccination programs at Seattle and King County Public Health, said he expects vaccinations for young children to increase this month. next, then decline as more and more families are hesitant about the effects on younger children. King County is one of the most vaccinated counties in the United States.

“Now is a great time to get vaccinated, so people are less worried about family gatherings and, just as importantly, getting ready for the fall when everyone is brought indoors. “said Del Beccaro.

Katie Shepherd in Washington, Mark Guarino in Chicago, Ken Hoffman in Houston, Barbara Liston in Orlando, Ian Morse in Seattle, and Jack Wright in New York contributed to this report.

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