CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Tens of thousands of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for kids are in Mecklenburg County, and the decision to vaccinate kids ages 5 to 11 is now in the hands of parents.
It’s a move doctors say will help with continued progress in the pandemic. But data shows a lot of parents are hesitant.
The first COVID-19 shots were available at a clinic at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Dilworth. Dozens of families came out to get their younger kids vaccinated.
Luke Sawyers and his sisters were some of the first kids to get his shot. He had the answer most kids would want to know about the vaccine.
“It didn’t hurt,” he told WCNC Charlotte.
The moment was exciting for the family.
“I’ve been telling them all along this is a historic moment," his mom Lauren Sawyers said. "They have no point of context but really we’re going to look back and think wow this is a big day and an important thing to be a part of."
She said they talked to their doctors and knew getting her children -- ages 7, 9 and 11 -- protected was the safe move for their family, but not all parents agree.
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey found two-thirds of parents want to wait and see or don’t want to get their kids vaccinated at all. Some say it all happened too fast.
“The mRNA technology has been available specifically for development of vaccines in a pandemic situation,” Dr. Amina Ahmed with Atrium Health said.
Doctors say the side effects in kids are similar to that in adults, but many times not as severe.
Some parents are concerned the long-term impacts are unknown.
“There will be at some point a leap of faith, we don’t know what will happen in five or 10 years but there’s no reason to believe that there’s going to be long-term side effects,” Ahmed said. “We’ve already had this vaccine around a year. There’s really nothing that will stay in your system that long to generate any side effects.”
Other parents are concerned about myocarditis. Doctors say it’s more likely a kid could get the inflammation of the heart muscle from actual COVID-19 infection.
“We just feel like it’s been a long time coming,” Sawyers said. “It’s going to give us great peace of mind and as we told them we feel like it’s being part of the solution to this global pandemic.”
As shots were delivered across Mecklenburg County on Wednesday, doctors felt a sense of relief.
“To be able to break the cycle and end pandemic we really have to get up to close to 70% of vaccination or immunity at the same time and we’re not going to be able to accomplish that without vaccination children,” Ahmed said.
Novant Health will begin vaccinations on Thursday at their clinics on East Independence Blvd and in Huntersville. StarMed has pre-booked thousands of appointments starting Thursday. Atrium Health is only giving the shots at pediatric offices and the exact start date has not been released yet. Walgreens opened spots for Saturday and CVS for Sunday. Those interested in booking an appointment can find more information here.