On Tuesday night, as polls closed across Connecticut and the final World Series game got underway, a group of young children gathered at Hartford Hospital to be among the first in their age bracket nationally to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
The immunizations came less than an hour after Rochelle Walensky, director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, signed off on emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Her approval followed the recommendations of two key federal advisory panels.
Kareem Omar, 7, was the first of seven children in line Tuesday. He proudly rolled up the sleeve of his blue T-shirt and clasped his hands in front of him as a health care worker administered the shot.
“Does it hurt?” another child in line asked. Omar shook his head.
Beginning Wednesday, parents of the 277,630 children aged 5 to 11 in Connecticut can schedule appointments to have their kids vaccinated against COVID-19. The rollout starts as families are making holiday plans and the cooler weather is setting in.
Connecticut so far has ordered 96,900 doses of the children’s vaccine, which will be split among pediatric offices, pharmacies, children’s hospitals and other providers.
“He was very excited last night, couldn’t believe it,” Reem Nouh, Kareem’s mother, said of her son. “He went to school super excited today. He’s going to tell all his friends. I’m hoping that all the kiddos from last night are an inspiration to their friends and families and to their communities so we can all get past this.”
Here’s what you need to know about the children’s vaccine rollout in Connecticut.
When can I sign up?
Some providers began scheduling appointments as early as Wednesday morning. More are expected to follow later this week.
Where can I sign up?
Yale New Haven Health is also booking appointments. To sign up, click here.
Hartford HealthCare will begin scheduling shots on Friday. The health system is planning a statewide clinic on Nov. 13 (with second doses administered on Dec. 4). For more information, click here. Officials with Hartford HealthCare said that at least 10 medical offices in their network will soon be administering the pediatric vaccines on a routine basis.
The city of Hartford is partnering with Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, Trinity Health of New England and the Hartford Yard Goats to host a coronavirus vaccine clinic for children 5 to 11 at Dunkin’ Donuts Park on Nov. 14, starting at 10 a.m.
Families can begin scheduling appointments for this clinic by calling 860-757-4830. Walk-ins will also be accepted for those who are unable to schedule ahead.
Parents can also visit the state’s website, ct.gov/covidvaccine, to search for providers.
Some pediatric offices will be scheduling shots. Parents should check with their pediatrician.
Anyone under 18 must be accompanied to the appointment by a parent or guardian.
Is the children’s vaccine the same as the adult shot?
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children 5 to 11 is a third of the dose of the adult immunization. Each children’s vaccine is 10 micrograms, while the adult dose is 30 micrograms.
Children receive two doses three weeks apart.
What side effects have been reported?
Possible side effects include injection site pain or redness, fatigue, headache, chills, fever, muscle pain or nausea, according to the CDC.
“These side effects may affect your child’s ability to do daily activities, but they should go away in a few days,” the agency noted. “Some people have no side effects, and severe allergic reactions are rare.”
Who approved the vaccine?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 after an advisory committee last week recommended its use for kids in that age bracket. The CDC signed off on the vaccine Tuesday night after another advisory panel recommended the vaccine.
Where do Connecticut doctors stand?
Physicians in Connecticut are recommending the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds.
“Let me give you some figures: 2 million kids in the U.S. have suffered COVID-19 in the 5- to 11-year-old group; 38,000 have been hospitalized, some of them at Connecticut Children’s here in Hartford; and over 90 have died as a result of COVID-19,” Dr. Juan Salazar, physician-in-chief at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center, said Wednesday. “That’s a disease that affects children 5 to 11 years of age. And parents need to make themselves aware of that.”
Although rare cases of myocarditis and pericarditis have been identified in adolescent boys and young men, Dr. Manisha Juthani, the state’s health commissioner, stressed that no cases were recorded among children in the 5-to-11 age group. Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle. Pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart.
“I want to just remind parents that in the trial that was done with this Pfizer vaccine among children between the ages of 5 to 11, there were no instances of myocarditis,” Juthani said. “The dose is one-third of what adults received. And this is really important for our children to have that opportunity to get back to normalcy in education, in socializing and being with their friends. This is a safe vaccine. I encourage all of you to allow your children the opportunity to move forward with their lives and make the best of it by getting vaccinated.”
Dr. Scott Schoem, president of the Connecticut chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and head of pediatric otolaryngology at Connecticut Children’s, said some parents are fearful of the unknown and may be waiting to get their children vaccinated.
“What I tell parents is that there are still fewer risks in getting the vaccine and having some measure of protection than in getting COVID and potentially getting very sick,” Schoem said. “I try to frame the discussion in a risk assessment – you can’t protect your child from getting COVID, they’re out there in the world; they’re mixing with all these other kids. And their chances of eventually getting it are pretty high.”
“Of course, the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from getting it 100%,” he added. “But your chances of getting really sick will be much less if you get the vaccine.”