As providers begin rolling out the low-dose Pfizer vaccine for younger children, appointments and waitlists are already filling up. Vaccination rates still lag across the Gulf South and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health officials now recommend it for all children ages 5-11.
Some parents were eager to get their kids the shot right away, including those at a Thursday afternoon event in New Orleans. In the parking garage of community health center Crescent Care, parents brought their children in after school for some of the first shots made available. The facility turned the event around a mere two hours after they had received their first shipment of vaccine supply.
While some parents are still skeptical, parents here were anxious to get it for their little ones. Some of the kids said they were nervous, some excited and others were clueless about what was happening.
Anjali, 5, and her mom Priya Lewis are looking forward to getting a taste of normalcy.
“We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It’s really important for us to get her the vaccine so she can stay safe because we have her in school,” Lewis said, adding that she can’t wait to revisit beloved spots like playgrounds and the museums.
“My friends will be allowed to have sleepovers and [also] my cousins in Mississippi,” Anjali said.
She’s also excited that she might not have to get tested as much.
“I don’t mind shots. I don’t like COVID tests where they have to stick it all the way up your nose,” she said.
Mother Pia Wilson was one of the first in line with her daughter.
“Our entire family is vaccinated. My 12-year-old just got his vaccination. I have a compromised immune system, so it was kind of a no-brainer.” Wilson said.
Her daughter Morgan, 7, was a little nervous to get the shot, but she made it through.
“I don’t really like needles that go in my arm,” Morgan said before the jab. But, she didn’t think the shot was too bad.
“It was fine … I got a COVID shot and I’m happy about it,” she said.
Nationally, more than 8,000 children ages 5-11 have been hospitalized from COVID-19 and 172 have died, according to the CDC.
Some of the children at the event said they got sick with coronavirus before and don’t want it again. That includes Anya, 9, who was there with her mom Kate Fouqet.
Anya came down with an upper respiratory infection and later discovered it was COVID-19.
“[Now] if I get anything,” Anya said, “I just get sick for a couple of days and that’ll be it.”
Some of the children, like Alexia, 11, and her brother Langston, 8, have been anxiously awaiting the vaccine.
“I’ve been wanting it. All my friends … were like, ‘Are you going to get the vaccine! Are you gonna get the vaccine!’ and I was like, ‘Yeah I am!’” Alexia said.
She had also gotten COVID-19 and did not want to experience that again. The siblings’ mom Shirelle Vilmenay said she was hoping to get them the shot before the holidays.
“It’s very important. I mean, this is a way to combat the virus and keep everyone safe, and it helps keep the older generation safe and is glad that they can finally be vaccinated,” Vilmenay said. “Hopefully, we can get over this.”
Langston said he was “scared but also excited,” because “coronavirus is a virus that can get you sick.” He’s ready to “feel safe at school.”
This story was produced by the Gulf States Newsroom, a collaboration between Mississippi Public Broadcasting, WBHM in Birmingham, Alabama, WWNO in New Orleans and NPR. Support for health equity coverage comes from the Commonwealth Fund.