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COVID-19 Vaccines For Children Could Come To Some Health Departments In Missouri This Week

Nine-year-old Marisol Gerardo gets her second COVID-19 shot as part of a clinical trial at Duke to test how well Pfizer’s vaccine works in kids.
Nine-year-old Marisol Gerardo gets her second COVID-19 shot as part of a clinical trial at Duke to test how well Pfizer’s vaccine works in kids.

Parents, doctors and kids in the St. Louis region are waiting on federal officials to give the green light for children as young as 5 to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Late last week, the federal Food and Drug Administration recommended approving the vaccinations for children ages 5-11. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could give final approval as early as this week.

Once the CDC gives the final approval for the vaccines, health officials could start giving young kids the shots.

Children with COVID-19 are hospitalized at lower rates than older people, said Dr. Hilary Babcock, an infectious disease specialist at Washington University and BJC Healthcare. But it’s still possible for them to get severely sick with the disease, she said. Kids are also effective at spreading the coronavirus, even if they don’t have serious symptoms.

“So older adults, immunocompromised people, people who can't be vaccinated for whatever reason, will also be safer, the more people are vaccinated. That includes kids,” Babcock said. “And then I think it will also help people in school, to have fewer times that people need to come out of school, fewer exposures in school, fewer quarantines associated with schools.”

Children and teens 12 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine at the same dose as adults. However, younger kids need a different dose to fit their smaller bodies, Babcock said. That means smaller doses will need to be shipped to clinics, pharmacies and health departments as soon as the federal government gives the go-ahead.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page said Monday the county plans to offer the pediatric vaccines at public libraries and in county schools as well as the usual clinics and pharmacies. The shots could be available as early as Saturday, he said.

“It’ll be a little bit tight for a week,” Page said. “But then we think all of our existing capacity in the community will be able to manage all of the interest in vaccinations.”

Page said parents who are not sure about their kids receiving the vaccine should talk to their pediatrician, who can answer questions about safety and effectiveness.

Some parents who have already received the vaccine are looking forward to getting their children vaccinated.

People who live with children who are not yet eligible to get vaccinated have needed to continue to take precautions, even as their vaccinated friends and neighbors meet up for get-togethers and dinners out.

Erin Armknecht, who lives in south St. Louis, plans to take her 7-year-old son Sam to get the vaccine as soon as it’s available. She and her husband got the vaccine months ago.

“It wasn’t really a question for us,” Armknecht said. “We knew that it would be something that when we saw that it was available we would be greatly relieved.”

Sam also can’t wait to get vaccinated, she said.

“He's got a whole ‘when I can get vaccinated’ list,” Armknecht said. “He’s got plans. He's gonna have indoor playdates with friends. He wants to go bowling. He wants to go to Rockin’ Jump and jump on the trampoline with his friends.”

Kate Hinklin-Lauderdale, of Maryland Heights, hopes that life will slowly begin to resemble what it looked like before the pandemic once her sons get vaccinated. Her elementary-age sons Atticus and Oliver have missed out on milestone events like holidays with extended family.

“They really missed out on a lot of things,” Hinkin-Lauderdale said. “Little activities of daily living that you get used to. They didn't get to eat at a restaurant for over a year. We were luckier than probably a lot of people certainly, but it was just so maddening to have to keep taking that stuff away from them.”

She plans to get her kids vaccinated “as soon as humanly possible.”

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Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Sarah Fentem reports on sickness and health as part of St. Louis Public Radio’s news team. She previously spent five years reporting for different NPR stations in Indiana, immersing herself deep, deep into an insurance policy beat from which she may never fully recover. A longitme NPR listener, she grew up hearing WQUB in Quincy, Illinois, which is now owned by STLPR. She lives in the Kingshighway Hills neighborhood, and in her spare time likes to watch old sitcoms, meticulously clean and organize her home and go on outdoor adventures with her fiancé Elliot. She has a cat, Lil Rock, and a dog, Ginger.