NORWICH – Eight-year-old Eva Lafontaine was among those patiently waiting for the newly-available child dose of Pfzier-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at United Community & Family Services in Norwich this week.
“We are traveling next week, we are actually going to Disney World,” mom Beth Lafontaine said, standing next to her daughter. “So I really wanted to make her be safe for the airplane ride and for being at Disney and being around all of those people – I think it is important for her safety.”
The two came to Norwich from Thompson for the shot.
“It didn’t hurt,” Eva Lafontaine said, adding her vaccination experience was “perfect.”
Children ages 5 to 11 are now eligible for the Pfzier-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, following a Tuesday night decision by the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to sign off on a recommendation from the agency’s expert panel.
“I am happy now,” the eight-year-old Lafontaine told a reporter.
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The CDC decision comes a week after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children in the age group, clearing the way for health providers to begin administering the shots.
Though the vaccines carry some risk for children, their benefits are greater, concluded the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, made up of vaccine and immune system experts from universities and medical schools across the country, USA Today reported.
The potential vaccine side effect of biggest concern is a swelling of the heart muscle, known as myocarditis, which has been seen particularly among young men who received the vaccine.
Out of every one million 16- and 17-year-old boys vaccinated, 69 developed the condition, compared with two out of every million men in their 40s, government statistics show. None died, and most cases appear to be mild without long-term consequences.
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“The vaccine is safe,” said Uncas Health District Director of Health Patrick McCormack. “This is intended to keep kids in school.”
The health director noted some local providers and pharmacies in the area, including Walgreens in East Lyme, were administering the shots this week. While he hoped “more pediatricians would choose to come online” to begin administering the doses locally, he urged families to use the state’s vaccine website to find out where shots for young children are available.
More:Connecticut vaccine portal: Where can you get a vaccine?
“Get the vaccine where you can as soon as it is available,” he said.
At United Community & Family Services on Thursday, Lafontaine was joined by about 30 children between the ages of 5 and 11 who were immunized between 9 a.m. and 12 p.m., according to Mary-Jane Zoco, a Registered Nurse and UCFS Population Health Nurse Manager.
“They were all very grateful, many of them had called around, trying to find places and so it really worked out.” Zoco said of the families who arrived at the clinic.
Zoco, who is responsible for ordering vaccines for UCFs said her team plans to hold an additional vaccination clinic on Tuesday and Wednesday of next week from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m.
She noted the Pfizer children’s vaccine is diluted and has a shelf life of 12 hours versus the 6-hour shelf life for the adult version of the vaccine.
Aside from holding the clinics, Zoco said “an additional plan that we have and probably what pediatrician offices will do is be able to open a vial and dilute it and have it prepared so any child coming in during the day in that age group, [5 to 11], could get their vaccine during a regular office visit.
“People trust their pediatricians so hopefully that will lead to a high confidence in getting their vaccines,” the nurse said.
Recognizing some families may be hesitant about having their child vaccinated, Zoco offered her own advice:
“The main thing to do is talk about it with someone they trust. Their pediatrician, the nurse at their pediatrician office – that is the main way to get good and accurate information.”