Pediatric COVID vaccines now available in Massachusetts 

500 providers will be giving the shots 

MASSACHUSETTS HEALTH CARE providers prepared to start vaccinating children against COVID-19 on Thursday, now that the federal government has signed off on the safety and efficacy of Pfizer’s vaccine. 

“Pediatric doses are here and more will be coming,” Gov. Charlie Baker said Thursday at a press conference at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We don’t anticipate any supply issues.” 

According to state officials, there will be 500 locations offering COVID-19 vaccines, including pediatricians’ offices, pharmacies, community health centers, hospitals, and community-based clinics run by local boards of health. 

The state has sponsored four clinics – in Brockton, Danvers, Lowell, and Springfield – that are offering pediatric vaccines. State officials are also partnering with several youth-friendly locations to offer vaccines at clinics there, including at the Discovery Museum in Acton, the Museum of Science in Boston, The Springfield Museums, and the EcoTarium in Worcester. The Department of Public Health is offering to set up vaccine clinics at schools, should a school request it. 

Baker advised parents to call their pediatrician’s office to book an appointment, or to go on the state’s VaxFinder website or call 211. “If someone wants to get an appointment today, they should be able to do that,” Baker said. “If they can’t get one for today, they can certainly get one for tomorrow or the day after.” 

Rochelle Walensky, the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on Tuesday night signed off on recommendations of a panel of experts allowing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be used for children ages five to 11. As a result, more than 28 million children nationwide are now eligible for the two-dose immunization. The dose being given to children is one-third the dose given to teenagers and adults. (An even smaller dose is in the process of being tested for children under five.) 

In Massachusetts, there are approximately 515,000 children now newly eligible for the Pfizer vaccine. 

Baker said Massachusetts has received about 380,000 doses. Since not every child will want to get a vaccine immediately, and more doses will be forthcoming, Baker said he does not anticipate any issues with supply. 

A major question is how many parents will vaccinate their children. Baker said in Massachusetts, 80 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds have gotten at least one shot, and the state’s youth vaccination rate is 20 points higher than the national average. But polling suggests that many parents remain hesitant to vaccinate their children due to concerns about side effects and safety. Children have generally gotten less severely ill from COVID-19 than adults. The most common vaccine side effects for children are pain at the injection site, fatigue, and headache. 

Medical experts are urging parents to vaccinate their children, both for their own health and to halt the spread of COVID. Dr. Frinny Polanco Walters, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, said since the start of the pandemic, 1.9 million children ages five to 11 have been infected with COVID-19, of whom 8,300 have been hospitalized and 172 have died. “We’re not forcing anyone to get the vaccine, but we’re highly recommending the vaccine because we see the benefits far outweigh the risks,” she said, speaking at the press conference with Baker. 

Meet the Author

Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Dr. Kevin Churchwell, president and CEO of Boston Children’s Hospital, said the vaccine will provide an opportunity for children to finally return to their normal activities and routines.  

The state of Massachusetts, for example, extended its mask mandate in schools until January 15 – but schools can get a waiver from the mask mandate if at least 80 percent of people in their school building, children and adults, are vaccinated.