Close to 20 million children six months to under five years old are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.
The FDA and CDC gave Moderna and Pfizer the green light to administer the shots for kids under five last week.
But demand among parents of kids in this age group appears to be low. The Kaiser Family Foundation says only 18 percent of parents say they will definitely get their kids vaccinated. 27 percent say definitely not.
“So I think it's important to acknowledge to parents that yes — it is new and yes, we don't know the long-term effects, but there are some things that we know that will help decrease some concerns,” explained Dr. Stephen Turkovich, chief medical officer, Oishei Children's Hospital, Buffalo.
Dr. Turkovich tells me he understands many parents are concerned about giving the COVID vaccine to very young children. But he warns that COVID cases amongst children under five years old have been increasing at his hospital.
“But if you look at the last three months about 64 percent of them were less than five years of age, so we are seeing that shift to younger children that are admitted to the hospital with COVID,” Dr. Turkovich replied. “Children are becoming more and more affected with COVID.”
Children six months to five years are now able to receive either the Pfizer vaccine, which is in a three-dose series of 11 weeks, or Modenra, which is a two-dose series in one month, but the doses are smaller than adult doses.
“And the reason is we didn't need as high a dose in order to achieve the same immune response in babies and the lower dose also will help decrease some of the side effects,” noted Dr. Turkovich.
As for those side effects.
“Very common side effects, similar things that you see in childhood vaccines — pain at the site — up to 20 percent of kids may have a fever for 24 hours — maybe a little bit irritable, especially if you're a baby — maybe eating a little bit less — sleeping a little bit more,” described Dr. Tukovich.
Buffalo parent Khadijah Hussein, originally from Kenya, tells me she is ready to have her two young children — a six-month-old and three-year-old — vaccinated.
“As a mom, what convinced you that it's important for your children to have these vaccines?" Buckley asked.
“If this is going to protect my child, I want my child to get this, so it's kind of that type of feeling for me,” responded Hussein.
But Hussein says right now, she still hasn't been able to convince her husband because of their cultural beliefs.
“And then being from Kenya, where I was originally born, medicine is like the last kind of thing resort type of thing that we usually go to,” reflected Hussein.
Dr. Turkovich says he knows many parents are concerned about giving the COVID vaccine to very young children, but both the FDA and CDC did their “due diligence” in studying the vaccines on young children.
Some pediatricians are starting to receive the doses. Dr. Turkovich says the hospital's two pediatric clinics in Buffalo started distributing it and they're seeing significant demand, mostly for babies.
Dr. Turkovich says he's hoping that Children's Hospital will be able to host a clinic for those five and under in the near future.
7 News checked in with Wegmans learning its pharmacies will begin vaccines for three and four-year-olds starting next week and you can sign up for appointments on their website. But Tops Markets tells us it will not offer vaccines for those five and under.
Thursday the Erie County Department of Health (ECDOH) announced vaccines will be provided for children six months and under five starting Wednesday, June 29.
“We have public health nurses and pharmacists who are trained and comfortable giving vaccines to these very young children,” said Commissioner of Health Dr. Gale Burstein. “And while we are prepared to be part in vaccine administration for this group, we are also relying on our local pediatricians, primary care providers, and pharmacies to play a key role in providing this vaccine as a safe and effective preventive measure for their patients and families.”
ECDOH says parents and caregivers can bring their children to the Jesse Nash Health Center at 608 William Street in Buffalo on Wednesdays starting June 29. This vaccine clinic is open on weekdays 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. on days that the ECDOH clinics are open. Appointments are strongly recommended. You can make an appointment online at www.erie.gov/v