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'I feel very confident in recommending it' | Vaccine rollout for kids under 5 underway

Doctors have seen a large group of eager parents but are also talking to a lot of reluctant families.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After a week in the CDC’s low COVID-19 community level, Mecklenburg County has moved back into the medium level. That means there’s more of a burden on the county’s COVID-19 response resources. With this amount of COVID-19 spread, the CDC recommends everyone stays up to date with vaccines and boosters.

Pediatricians have been giving some of the youngest children COVID-19 shots for almost three weeks now. The CDC and FDA approved both the Pfizer and Moderna shots for kids under 5, meaning every age group now has access to this type of protection.

Local doctors say demand for the shots has been steady, but some do wonder if it will drop off soon.

Many pediatricians have been waiting to offer a COVID-19 vaccine to all children.

“Especially at my clinic, we’ve been very much ahead of the curve in the rollout and excited that we can offer it to our families," Dr. Sameena Hassan, a pediatrician with Novant Health said. "And we’re offering it every day in the clinic."

In North Carolina, about 10,000 kids under 5 were vaccinated in the first few weeks after approval. That’s 2% of the age group in the state.

The phone lines at Dr. Hassan’s office were overwhelmed when vaccination appointments first opened up. But as expected, there are reluctant parents too.

“I think a lot of parents aren’t certain of the effectiveness of the vaccine and wonder why they should get it for their healthy child and there are a lot of good reasons to think about it,” she said.

The last age group to be approved for a COVID-19 vaccine is also one of the more vulnerable. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 300,000 kids under 5 have gotten COVID-19 and around 500 have died.

“It particularly can affect this age group," Dr. Moira Szilagyi with the American Academy of Pediatrics said. "They have higher rates of serious illness when they get it, higher rates of hospitalization and a slightly higher death rate if they catch the infection."

Szilagyi said with past age groups, demand has started off strong before dropping off.

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“Right now, about 60% of our 12- to 17-year-olds are vaccinated and about 30% of our 5- to 11-year-olds,” Szilagyi said. “We would certainly love for that to be higher because it helps to protect everybody.”

Hassan said about 100 kids under 5 have been vaccinated in her office. She said Novant Health as a whole has given double that. Hassan will talk about it with every family who comes in for a checkup.

“I emphasize the positives that come with the vaccine and let them know that it will prevent the risk of serious illness from COVID that has been proven and I feel very confident in recommending it as a safe vaccine for their children,” she said.

Pediatricians say parents seem a lot more comfortable having their young children vaccinated in an office than anywhere else.

Contact Chloe Leshner at cleshner@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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