The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is preparing to begin administering vaccines to children ages 5-11. Photos by Julie Crosby
This story was updated on Nov. 4. The Center for Disease Control formally endorsed the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine for children 5-11 years old, expanding the recommendation to about 28 million children, according to the CDC.
Laura Kammerer, a Columbia mother of two, said her 10-year-old son, Julian, had “vaccine envy” watching his older brother and the rest of his family get vaccinated with the COVID-19 vaccine over the last several months.
“He was upset that he couldn’t get the shot,” Kammerer said. “I remember him joking with me after his brother got the shot, saying, ‘I’ll be the last person in America! It’ll never be my turn!’”
Soon, Kammerer’s son will have no reason to be envious of his family.
On Friday, the FDA gave emergency authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5-11. On Tuesday, a panel of the Centers for Disease Control met to make its recommendation. Once that vote is taken, the Biden administration is expected to announce how the vaccine would be distributed.
The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control is finalizing the details about when and where the vaccine will be available for children. You can visit SCDHEC.gov for more updates.
Many parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and have been preparing their children for the day they are able to receive the vaccine. But some parents, even those who are vaccinated, have expressed reluctance and are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
A poll by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focusing on national health issues, reported nearly three-in-10 parents would not vaccinate their children. One third of parents said in the survey they are eager to vaccinate. The remaining third are waiting to assess long-term effects.
Kammerer volunteered in the initial vaccine rollout and that experience, coupled with family members who work in the medical profession, confirmed for her two children that “wearing a mask and getting vaccinated is what you do.”
Marjorie Duffie, a publications writer with the Darla Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina, said her pediatrician has been one of the biggest motivators to vaccinate her five-year-old son.
She and her husband received the Moderna COVID-19 vaccination during the first rollout in Spring of 2021 and have no reservations allowing her son to receive “whichever one is available first.”
Duffie, in accord with Kammerer, said she “has never been more excited for someone to be vaccinated.”
Valerie Byrd-Fort, who has a six-year-old daughter, said she is waiting to get their child vaccinated.
“I do plan to get (my daughter) vaccinated, but I’m going to wait for just a little bit to see how that first wave of children getting vaccinated goes,” said Byrd-Fort. “She has had some vaccine reactions in the past, so I’m just careful with that. But I fully intend to get her vaccinated, but I’m not going to be one of the first in line.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the chief medical advisor to the President, told Axios that he is “always very much in favor of letting parents make a decision.”
“I would reach out and try to explain to (reluctant parents) why their children should be vaccinated,” Fauci said. “I sure as hell wouldn’t want (my kids) to get COVID-19. I would vaccinate them in a second.”
Dr. Jay Portnoy, medical director of Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri, told the FDA panel he was “persuaded by the data showing it works” despite over 4,000 emails “urging him to vote against the vaccine.”
Portnoy said he represented parents he sees every day in the clinic who are “terrified” of sending their children to school.
“(Those parents) need a voice too,” Portnoy said.
The Kaiser Foundation said pediatricians will play an important part in parents’ decision to vaccinate their children as they are “far and away the most trusted source on vaccines for parents.”
Michelle Peterson, a Columbia mother of two, said she has felt even more secure in her decision to vaccinate her children because of her pediatrician’s approval.
“She has told us first hand in person, via email, via her social media posts that they are doing rigorous testing with the child dose and making sure it is super safe for our children,” said Peterson.
The child vaccine rollout will include pediatricians’ offices, pharmacies, children’s hospitals and community centers in order to be “as convenient as possible for parents,” Fauci said.
Physical symptoms have not been the only source of frustration for parents and children. Many childhood rites, like in-person school and recess, have been threatened by COVID-19.
The FDA panel presented several alterations to the vaccine to undermine some of the risks that have been presented to the panelists as cause to vote in opposition to the shot.
Most notably, children within this age group would receive a dosage one-third the strength of the adult dosage and would receive a secondary shot three weeks later. Experts said this could further diminish the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis, inflammation of the heart that has been reported as a side effect in children.
The physical appearance of the children’s dosage will be altered, changing the vial caps and packaging from purple to orange in order to avoid dosage mix-ups with the adult vaccine for the health providers who will administer the shot.
In comparison to national COVID-19 rates in children, the number of pediatric cases in South Carolina has nearly doubled the national count. For every 100,000 children in S.C., about 14,600 have contracted the coronavirus since the beginning of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There are already plans to administer 150,000 doses of the vaccine to children in the state once it has completed the approval process, according to S.C. Assistant State Epidemiologist Jane Kelly.
Though the Department of Health and Environmental Control does not foresee any shortages in supply of the adult vaccine, various adult vaccination sites were paused through Nov. 3.
“In anticipation for pediatric vaccinations, DHEC is training health department staff over the next few days so they are better equipped to administer COVID-19 vaccinations to ages 5-11,” DHEC tweeted.