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Pediatricians say vaccinate your kids under 5. But providers weren't prepared to administer shots

Children younger than 5 can now receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
New Africa
Children younger than 5 can now receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

Starting this week, local health care systems and pharmacies are administering COVID-19 vaccines for children younger than 5.

The lower-dose pediatric vaccine was endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on June 18, and pharmacies began receiving shipments soon afterward.

Dr. Steven Schulz, Rochester Regional’s pediatric medical director, said the vaccine is safe and effective.

“We definitely recommend it. It's important, and it's going to help keep your children safe,” Schulz said. “That's why we're trying to turn this around as quickly as we can, but as safely as we can.”

Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 400 children across the nation have died from COVID-19 complications, he said, and about 40,000 have been hospitalized. Schulz added that although those numbers are significantly lower than that of the adult population, not vaccinating this demographic is still too risky.

“There's no way to tell that one kid is going to do just fine, and another kid is going to have hospitalization or even death,” he warned.

The Rochester Regional system initially will be offering the three-dose Pfizer series, which takes approximately 11 weeks to complete. Schulz said the Moderna vaccine will be offered starting in the fall.

He said this week’s rollout will be for patients who already had wellness visits scheduled; vaccine-only appointments will be available after the July 4 weekend. He encouraged parents to get their child in as soon as possible to ensure full immunization by the start of the school year.

A recent poll showed that 18% of parents want to get their children vaccinated right away, and 38% have chosen to “wait and see.”

Dr. Linda Clark, chief medical officer for Common Ground Health, said she understands vaccine hesitancy among parents, and respects the right for parents to choose.

“Of course, we would like more people to be vaccinated, but we respect that not everybody is going to be at that decision-making point at the same time,” Clark said.

She added that the best way to dispel misinformation and myths is by getting the facts.

“I think we're in a kind of a weird time right now in our country where we think we can get medical information from just anybody who's got a Facebook account and a loud voice,” Clark said. “I think really being discerning about where you get your information is important.”

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.