Local health officials, parents prepare for younger children to get COVID-19 vaccine

Published: Sep. 20, 2021 at 7:44 PM CDT
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - Moving a step closer to a COVID-19 vaccine for younger children (ages 5-11) has health officials in Sedgwick County taking steps to get ready. It’s also leading to eagerness among some parents who say this is the best way to keep their children safe.

It will likely be late October before the Pfizer vaccine gets federal approval needed to begin administering the vaccine to children. The release of the vaccine trial data comes a a time when more children are getting infected with COVID-19 and getting sicker from it. For Wichita mother Katie Grover, that’s what concerns her most.

“As a mom, it’s imperative to me to be able to protect them as much as I can,” Grover said.

For parents like Grover, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine moving closer to approval for kids in the five-to-11-year-old age group is another checkmark on the checklist. Grover is watching the process play out closely, waiting for the day the vaccine gets approved for children.

“My daughter is 11 and in sixth grade. My son is seven and in second grade and, of course, both of those ages fall under the threshold for the vaccine eligibility right now,” Grover said.

She said her two children are ready for the shot.

“They are now seeing friends that have been infected because of school, and that’s hard and that scares them,” she said. “It’s just one more step. They know that they’re going to be protected and they’re going to be able to protect others.”

The Sedgwick County Health Department is beginning to lay the groundwork for the anticipated vaccine approval.

“We’re excited about it because we do need as many people vaccinated as possible to be able to battle this,” Sedgwick County Health Director Adrienne Byrne said.

The health department said it is preparing staff who don’t have experience vaccinating children with practice to help make them and the children comfortable. Monday, we learned the Pfizer vaccine for children will still need two shots, but it’s lower dose.

“”The beauty of children is their immune systems are very now, so they respond very, vey well to any vaccines, so having a lower dose makes a lot of sense,” said KU School of Medicine Wichita Department of Internal Medicine Assistant Professor and Center for Disease Control Research Director Dr. Tiffany Schwasinger-Schmidt.

Dr. Schwasinger-Schmidt said now is also a good time to start talking with children about shots.

“What I talk to my kids about -- I have kids as young as six, I have one as young as three -- is, I always talk about, ‘this is a way to keep you safe. So, you may have a little bit of discomfort for a short period of time, but it can keep you safe and healthy.’”

Dr. Schwansinger-Schmidt and the health department say now is also the time to reach out to your doctor or your child’s pediatrician if you have any questions. They’re asking parents to get their children vaccinated when the time comes. Pfizer says for kids younger than five, data from those trials likely will come at the end of the year.

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