Nov. 4, 2021 — Thousands of children between the ages of 5 and 11 have already received a COVID-19 vaccine, less than 2 days since the shots were authorized.
President Joe Biden on Wednesday called the vaccine approval “a giant step forward to further accelerate our path out of this pandemic.”
“For parents all over this country, this is a day of relief and celebration,” he said. “After almost 18 months of anxious worry every time your child had a sniffle or started to cough, well, you can now protect them from this horrible virus.”
Late Tuesday, the CDC gave approval for this age group — made up of more than 28 million children — to get two doses of the Pfizer shot, at one-third of an adult dose.
Pfizer studies show that its vaccine is 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 in kids ages 5 to 11. None of the children who were studied have had any serious side effects, according to Pfizer data posted by the FDA.
Texas Children’s Hospital, the largest children’s hospital in the country, is one COVID-19 vaccine provider that has hit the ground running in efforts to vaccinate the newly eligible age group.
The hospital began giving COVID-19 shots to 5- to 11-year-olds at 7 a.m. Wednesday.
The children were welcomed with balloons, stickers, and support dogs to help ease any fears.
James Versalovic, MD, COVID-19 command co-leader and pathologist-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, described the atmosphere as “joyful.”
“It’s clear that parents are relieved that the day has arrived,” he said. “Just seeing it on their faces, and seeing the children come throughout the day, they are eager as well to get vaccinated. Certainly, we haven’t had to twist any arms.”
Versalovic says hospital staff are just as delighted as parents, especially after the highly transmissible Delta variant wreaked havoc on this age group over the summer.
“It allows us to accomplish the mission of prevention of COVID-19 in children under 12 for the first time in this pandemic,” he said.
“The Delta surge has had a tremendous impact on children because they were fully unvaccinated under the age of 12, so they were totally vulnerable.”
The hospital says it has already scheduled nearly 39,000 vaccine appointments for kids ages 5 to 11 from now through Thanksgiving.
Numerous COVID-19 vaccine providers across the country are also preparing to offer shots to this new age group in the coming days.
Children’s Hospital Colorado will partner with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to host the first of recurring COVID-19 vaccine clinics for 5- to 11-year-olds this Friday.
Pharmacies like CVS and Walgreens have also begun scheduling COVID-19 vaccine appointments for children.
“The arrival of vaccines for kids truly is a landmark moment,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, MD, said at a White House briefing Wednesday.
“Ultimately, we want every child in our country to be saved from COVID and to be able to get back to their lives — sleepovers and birthday parties, school plays, soccer games, visits with friends and grandparents, and so much more.”
Rollout Will Accelerate
The vaccine rollout will be “fully up and running” early next week, with over 20,000 vaccine providers planning to give shots to this new age group, according to White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients.
The White House is taking measures to ensure parents have access to the right information about the new kid-size vaccines.
“We are setting up forums and town halls to answer parent questions, including a town hall this Sunday by dozens of faith communities,” Murthy said. “We’re also working with medical groups to encourage doctors to talk to their patients about the vaccine and to appear on local media outlets.”
Murthy also warned parents to watch out for vaccine misinformation floating around online.
“Many parents are already seeing inaccurate claims on social media, text threads, and in their inboxes,” he said.
“I believe every parent has a right to the facts, so they can make decisions for their children based on accurate scientific information,” Murthy said. “I’m asking parents to please seek answers from credible sources — their doctor, their local hospital, the local health department, or the CDC.”
He noted that he and his wife will be taking their 5-year-old son to get a COVID-19 vaccine in the coming days.
“We will be so grateful that we can more confidently send him out into the world, knowing that he has strong protection against COVID-19.”
Staff writer Damian McNamara contributed to this story.