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‘Have patience’: pediatricians say it could take a week for kids under 5 to get the COVID vaccine

Max Schulte

With the COVID-19 vaccine finally available for children younger than 5, many parents across the state are eager for their children to receive it.

Health care providers are scrambling to get things in place for their younger patients, but local pediatricians and pharmacies said it could take up to a week or so to begin taking appointments.

“The biggest difference right now is that the pandemic activity and support is not what it was a year ago,” said Dr. Stephen Cook, associate professor for pediatric and adult medicine at UR Medicine.

With the removal of community mass vaccination sites and clinics, pediatric and family medicine providers and hospitals have become the primary source for getting the shot into the arms of young children.

For practices and hospitals that preordered the low-dose vaccine series, the shipment should have arrived Monday or Tuesday, but Cook said preparation to begin administering the shots will take some time and will vary among practices.

“When they'll be ready to vaccinate versus when they actually start vaccinating may differ,” Cook said.

He broke down how practices need to prepare for the rollout: training staff, updating medical records and applications, and finding creative solutions to make up for staffing shortages.

He said a busy practice has to have enough personnel to see patients who are sick and with scheduled appointments, along with the influx of kids who just want to get vaccinated.

“I think people need to understand that and be patient,” he said.

Dr. Steven Schulz, Rochester Regional Health’s pediatric medical director, said he and his team will be ready to vaccinate this age group starting Monday.

“It's been a really fast turnaround for us, and we're hoping that we'll be able to accommodate everybody who wants it,” Schulz said.

Rochester Regional will only offer the Pfizer series, which is three shots over the course of three months. Moderna is a two-shot series. Schulz said kids will still have enough time to get fully vaccinated before the new school year starts.

“We are at a good place in terms of our numbers in the region being overall lower right now that we have some time to get these into kids' arms and have it be effective when they're most important,” he said.

For those children without a primary care provider, Monroe County suggests that parents or guardians contact its immunization clinic.

In a statement, Wegmans said stores are still awaiting the arrival of the vaccines, but they expect to receive them over the course of the week. Officials said once the product arrives, they will be able to schedule appointments for the Moderna vaccine for children ages 3 and 4.

In the Rochester area, Wegmans will offer vaccinations at the Mt. Read, Holt Road and Chili-Paul stores. It also will offer them at the Ithaca, Cicero, Dick Road, and Jamestown stores.

Update: After this story was published, public health commissioner Dr. Michael Mendoza said when vaccines become available, the district will prioritize appointments for patients who do not have insurance or are under-insured.

Racquel Stephen is a health and environment reporter. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Rochester and a master's degree in broadcasting and digital journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University.