Children 6 months to four years old are now eligible for a COVID vaccine.

During the first week that COVID-19 vaccines were available to children younger than five, 2,811 kids in that age group received their first dose in Connecticut, state data show.

The data cover vaccinations from June 21 through June 29. 

“It’s going to take time with this rollout. We anticipate this is going to be ongoing throughout the course of the summer and into the fall,” said Michael Bolduc, vaccine coordinator for the state’s immunization program with the state Department of Public Health. “It will take time for the impact of this new recommendation to take hold.”

So far, health officials in Connecticut have ordered 20,440 doses of the Pfizer vaccine for children 6 months to 4 years old, and 22,070 doses of the Moderna shot.

“The good news is that we are continuing to see providers order the vaccine,” Bolduc said.

With kids out of school, many families are traveling for summer vacations. Providers could see more children get the COVID vaccine when the time comes to return to school.

“As we get closer to school getting back in, usually that’s when you see that influx into the provider offices,” Bolduc said. “We see kids going for those back-to-school vaccinations; usually we see a big jump in August. Would it be out of the realm of possibility to see that happen with COVID [vaccines]? No. We definitely could see a spike in the number of COVID vaccinations for the under-five population.”

On Wednesday, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra visited Fair Haven Community Health Care in New Haven to encourage parents with young children to speak with their medical providers about the COVID vaccine.

“My message to everyone when it comes to vaccination is talk to the folks you trust,” he said. “That’s probably going to be, with regard to child vaccination, a pediatrician. 

“Too many times we hear from women who say, ‘I’m thinking of having a baby; I don’t want to get vaccinated,’ or, ‘I am pregnant; I just can’t get vaccinated. … Listen to a trusted voice to tell you what it means to be safe against COVID and have a child who’s also safe against COVID.”

Becerra said the federal government so far has shipped five million doses of the vaccine for young children to states across the U.S.

“We’ve got more and we’re going to do everything we can to work with you,” he said. “We can be safe. … Today, we know that the people who are dying from COVID – and it’s far fewer than before – but there are still 300 or 400 a day who are dying and [it’s] mostly people who have either not been vaccinated or haven’t been boosted.”

Dr. Jody Terranova, a UConn Health pediatrician and president-elect of the Connecticut chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, who also visited the health center Wednesday, said she is having regular conversations with parents who have questions about the coronavirus vaccines.

“We are asked every day, ‘Do we need to vaccinate young children? Is COVID really a risk for young children?’” she said. “We’re fortunate that it is a low risk. But we need to remember that it’s not no risk. 

“There have been over 500 children under five years old who have died from COVID. We saw with the omicron surge over the winter four-to-five times higher hospitalization rates for children under five compared to the delta surge. This is because they were not eligible for vaccines compared to all the other age groups.”

She urged parents to consider vaccination.

“I think many of my colleagues have had this similar conversation, where they’re talking to the mother of their two-year-old patient who is admitted to the hospital with COVID. This mom is scared and worried about her child. But I also think about that two-year-old. They’re terrified. They don’t know what’s going on. 

“With the vaccine, we can prevent the terror in that two-year-old. We can prevent those sleepless nights for that mom and dad. We have in our office now a tool to keep our children healthy and safe, and we must use it.”

Last month, advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended emergency authorization of the vaccines for children 6 months to 4 years old, and both agencies granted that approval. Young children were the last remaining group to be approved for COVID shots.

Pfizer’s immunization for children in that age range requires three shots. The first two are taken three weeks apart and the third is taken at least two months later. The shots are one-tenth the dosage of the vaccine for adults. Federal agencies have already authorized Pfizer COVID vaccines for 5-to-11-year-olds, for those 12 to 17 and for those 18 and older.

Moderna’s immunization requires two doses spaced four weeks apart. The immunizations for young children contain 25 micrograms – far less than the 100 micrograms in adult vaccines.

Parents who want to make an appointment should first check to see if their pediatrician or family doctor is one of the providers administering shots for this age group, health officials said. If not, they can visit vaccines.gov, type in a zip code and find vaccine clinics near them. Providers who have signed up to receive the vaccine for young kids include pediatricians, larger health systems, and local health districts and health departments.

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.