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'The best position to stay healthy' | Doctors answer top questions on the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine

There are plenty of places to get shots in Mecklenburg County and the surrounding areas.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — Thursday was a big day in Mecklenburg County, it was the first full day the pediatric Pfizer vaccine was given to 5-to11-year-olds at several locations.

Novant Health, StarMed Healthcare and the Mecklenburg County Health Department all opened their clinics for hundreds to get the first dose.

But like with all age groups, there’s hesitancy and many parents still have questions.

RELATED: 'A historic moment' | First pediatric COVID-19 vaccines given in Mecklenburg County

Convincing a child that getting a shot is a good thing can be a challenge. But most of the kids who got their Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine at Novant Health’s East Mecklenburg clinic will say the same thing.

“It was kind of quick, it only hurt for like a second, a little less. Then it felt better immediately,” Parker Hall, a 10-year-old, said. 

Bella Nissen, also ten, agrees. She was nervous but was brave and was the first in the age group to get vaccinated at Novant Health.

“I was nervous and scared at first but after, it didn’t really hurt at all,” she said.

Bella understands why the shots are important.

“It helps you not get COVID,” the 5th grader said.

Her mom, Nikki Nissen, is the vice president of clinical operations for Novant Health. She’s been instrumental in planning the vaccine rollout for the community and when it came to her family, made sure Bella was part of the conversation.

“I’m definitely thrilled for us but thrilled for the community. I’m looking forward to us getting to the next phase of this,” Nissen said.

As the rollout ramps up across the state, it’s some parents who need more information before they can be convinced getting their kids vaccinated is a safe move.

Some are questioning why it’s necessary when most kids will have a mild case of COVID-19.

“Some children in their classrooms have lung disease, have asthma, have cystic fibrosis, have heart disease, have diabetes and those children are at really high risk for hospitalization and severe illness,” Dr. Catherine Ohmstede, a pediatrician with Novant Health said. “These children can help their friends stay safe by getting the vaccine.”

Even a child who’s had the virus should get vaccinated, studies show the immunity from the shots is more reliable and can last longer than immunity from a previous infection.

RELATED: Pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations underway in Mecklenburg County

Doctors say the side effects in kids are like those in adults. Severe side effects from a shot are extremely rare, and they don’t anticipate long-term effects. But they say there are dangerous long-term impacts from a COVID-19 infection.

“The sooner he’s safer the better for us,” Jennifer Hall said after her son was vaccinated.

Hall’s son Parker is the last in the family to get vaccinated, meaning their holiday season will be spent with long-lost loved ones.

“We haven’t seen my parents since 2019 at Christmas because they’re older and have other risk factors. They haven’t seen us at all until he could get vaccinated,” Hall said.

Getting this age group protected will slow the spread in schools and will help keep older, more vulnerable people safe.

“If we can get our children vaccinated before the holidays start, that puts us in the best position to stay healthy as a community into 2022,” Ohmstede said.

The pediatric dose is one-third of the adult dose. They come in different vials and are not interchangeable. Novant Health made their East Meck clinic family friend. Nurses are ready to distract nervous kids who get lollipops, stickers and can write their names on a big board.

For parents who are concerned a large clinic is not the right setting for their child, it is being offered in many pediatric offices.

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

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