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.
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.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.