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caption: Sandino, eight months old, gets his first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine at Seattle Children's on June 21, 2022.
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Sandino, eight months old, gets his first shot of the Covid-19 vaccine at Seattle Children's on June 21, 2022.
Credit: KUOW photo/Kate Walters

Kids under 5 receive first Covid-19 doses in Seattle

“We’re just ready.”

That’s how parent Whitney Stohr described her feelings as she waited for her 4-and-a-half-year-old son, Malachi, to get his first Covid-19 vaccine shot Tuesday at a vaccine clinic at Seattle Children’s.

Malachi and other kids under 5 at the clinic were among the first in the nation in this age group to receive the long-awaited vaccine.

Stohr said the moment was exciting and a little overwhelming.

Malachi was born with several medical conditions that place him in a high-risk category and Stohr said the family has been in full isolation during the pandemic.

That’s meant no school, not going to therapies, avoiding the hospital as much as possible, and foregoing in-home nursing to try to limit exposure.

“It’s been really, really hard,” Stohr said. “We pull round-the-clock shifts with our son. We stay up all night with him, just because it’s too risky to bring anybody into the house right now with him not vaccinated.”

Just the idea of Malachi getting vaccinated offers a lot of hope, Stohr said.

“We were left behind because everyone else got to move ahead and got to normalize their life again," she explained. "They got to get their shots, and as soon as they got their shots, the world moved forward and we didn’t get to.”

Following federal authorization, the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup signed off on vaccines for the youngest children Sunday, making kids as young as 6 months old eligible for vaccines in Washington state.

caption: An open box of the newly approved Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for young children at Seattle Children's on June 21, 2022.
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An open box of the newly approved Moderna Covid-19 vaccine for young children at Seattle Children's on June 21, 2022.
Credit: Kate Walters / KUOW

While not all parents will rush out immediately to find appointments for their babies, toddlers, and youngest kids, those who are keen to get the process started have endured a long wait.

For those who are still on the fence, Dr. Danielle Zerr, head of pediatric infectious diseases at Seattle Children’s, said they can be confident that the vaccines are both safe and effective.

“It’s important to talk to those trusted advisors — your doctor, your pediatrician,” Zerr said. She also said resources like the CDC website can be a great resource.

Zerr said any risk with the vaccine is much smaller than the risks that come with Covid-19 infections. Although children tend to have more mild Covid symptoms, some do get seriously ill and some have died.

S

caption: Needles containing the newly approved Covid-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years sit in a container at Children's Hospital on June 21.
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Needles containing the newly approved Covid-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years sit in a container at Children's Hospital on June 21.
Credit: Kate Walters / KUOW

imilar to vaccine rollouts for other age groups, it may take a few days for providers to receive doses and start offering appointments.

Providers and public health officials are asking parents to have some patience as they go through the process. If an appointment isn’t available during week one, keep trying, Zerr said.

For those seeking appointments for children under five, here are the places to check:

  • Call your pediatrician or family provider.
  • Check at local pharmacies but be aware that many pharmacies will only be serving 3- and 4-year-olds, not the youngest kids.
  • Check for available appointments and clinic schedules with Seattle Children's.
  • Check for available appointments at UW medicine sites.
  • Check with Public Health - Seattle & King County for updates on clinics and available appointments.
  • Use the Washington state vaccine locater website. Be aware it may take a day or two for appointments to show up in your area.

Two options are available for children under 5. A two-dose series of Moderna vaccines, or a three-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech.

Dr. Zerr recommends people get whatever is available to them and that they get their children vaccinated as soon as possible, instead of waiting to time vaccinations with a family trip or some sort of event.

It does take a couple of weeks after completing the vaccine series to be considered fully vaccinated and protected.

Although the first dose is just a first step in the process to protecting the youngest kids from Covid-19, parents Estell Williams and Edwin Lindo said the moment feels hopeful.

Their children are 8 months old and 4 years old.

When asked what the family is looking forward to most once their children are fully vaccinated, Williams said: “I think going out and being in community space without fear.”

Lindo said as a Black and brown family they want to acknowledge there are real questions their communities have, that they also had.

“What we’re grateful for is that you have folks at Seattle Children’s, our pediatrician, who take the time to explain what this vaccine is, what it means, the dose," Lindo explained. "And so we feel happy that we know what this is, what it means."

Lindo said the family had Covid a couple of months ago and had to take their 8-month-old to the emergency room.

“That’s terrifying. And if there’s a way to prevent that, not seeing your newborn suffering and them not knowing what’s happening... They just want to be happy and live, and this virus will do its best to steal that from you,” Lindo said.

Lindo said a vaccine that could prevent them from going through that again is a no-brainer.

It remains to be seen how many parents will get their youngest children vaccinated.

The rollout for children in the 5- to 11-year-old age group has stalled somewhat in Washington state with just under a third of children in that age range having completed their vaccine series, according to the state Department of Health.