‘A light at the end of the tunnel’: Oxford doles out first vaccine doses to children 5 to 11

Published 3:28 pm Thursday, November 4, 2021

Shara Minton said when she checked her son, Holt, out of school on Wednesday, he danced and cheered.

“Is it time to get my shot?” the 7-year-old asked his mother.

And it was. Holt received his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, making him one of the first children ages 5 to 11 in Mississippi to receive the vaccine.

“We’ve been prepping for the idea since the conversation began,” Shara said. “When we told him Tuesday night that the vaccine had been approved, he was ready to go get it.”

After Shara and her partner pointed out that Holt doesn’t like to get sick or take medicine, Holt continued to wear a mask at school even when there was no mandate to avoid infection.

“We pointed out to him for a while that he had not been sick the whole time he had been wearing the mask with anything else,” said Shara. “I think he realized there is a benefit for him and once he saw that there was a vaccine that would help him not have to wear a mask – that helped.”

Last week the Food and Drug Administration authorized the half-doses of the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in children 5 to 11 years old. Soon after, the vaccine gained a recommendation from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisers and a green light from Director of the CDC Dr. Rochelle Walensky on Tuesday.

Webb Family Medical Clinic and Phillips Pediatrics were among the first clinics in Oxford to receive the half-doses of the Pfizer vaccine for children.

According to the Mississippi American Academy of Pediatrics President Dr. Anita Henderson, the vaccine has proven to be over 90 percent effective in the 5 to 11 age group. During testing, children showed very similar symptoms as 12 and older vaccinated individuals such as headaches, fatigue and a sore arm.

While data shows COVID-19 has largely been less serious in children than adults, the public still worries about hospitalization, death, and prevailing long COVID symptoms. Some skeptics have questioned the need for kids to get vaccinated since they are less likely than adults to develop severe COVID-19.

Shara shared the same worries that many parents have especially since the vaccine is only being administered under emergency use authorization.

“I know there’s not as much information about it, but in my opinion the alternative was worse,” she said. “I’m driving him crazy by constantly asking him, ‘How are you feeling,’ ‘How’s your arm,’ ‘How’s your head,’ and ‘How’s your body?’ He’s gotten kind of annoyed.”

According to the Associated Press, the United States has recorded approximately 46 million COVID cases and more than 740,000 deaths in children. Since the pandemic began, there have been at least 94 COVID-19 related pediatric deaths in children 5 to 11 years old, more than 8,300 have been hospitalized and over 5,000 have developed serious, COVID-19 conditions.

Mississippi has experienced nine pediatric COVID-19 related deaths since the beginning of the pandemic and four of those deaths occurred in children 10 years old and younger. The youngest child died in infancy.

With the federal government promising enough vaccines to protect the nation’s 28 million kids in this age group, pediatricians’ offices and hospitals began inoculating children. Schools, pharmacies and other locations plan to follow suit in the days ahead.

Although some are ready to get rid of masks, the CDC still recommends masks, even for the fully vaccinated, in indoor public spaces where virus transmission may be relatively high.

The vaccine is a third of the dose given to individuals 12 and older and administered with kid-sized needles. Just like regular doses of Pfizer, the vaccine requires two doses three weeks apart with two more weeks afterward for full protection.

Holt, who received his first dose of the Pfzier vaccine, will be fully vaccinated just in time for Christmas, much to his mother’s excitement. Shara said the vaccination process for children is the same as the process for those 12 and older and children will have to wait 10 to 15 minutes immediately after receiving the dose for observation.

Many parents are not eager to jump on the opportunity to get vaccinations for their younger children. Almost two-thirds (27%) of parents recently polled by the KFF said they would get their kids vaccinated immediately while 33% said they would wait and see, 5% of parents would get their children vaccinated if required and 30% would definitely not get them vaccinated.

“Every parent has to decide what is best for them and their children,” said Shara. “Do the proper research. Don’t research on social media. Listen to science.”

White House coronavirus coordinator Jeff Zients said the COVID-19 vaccine website will be updated by Friday for parents to search for vaccination sites near them.

“Before it was a constant worry and while there will still be worry that he could get it, now we feel like there’s a light at the end of this horrible tunnel we’ve been walking for a year and a half,” said Shara.