COVID vaccination of kids under 5 begins: Here’s how to get shots in California
The next, and final, major phase of the COVID-19 vaccination campaign kicked off this week, with California finally able to secure doses for children under the age of 5.
Immediate access may be limited, however. Though California’s online appointment-booking platform, MyTurn.ca.gov, is now accessible for patients as young as 6 months, many providers that showed up in search results Tuesday morning didn’t yet appear able to accommodate the youngest children.
On its own website, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health said that “due to delays in shipping, vaccine for those 6 months and older may not be available until Wednesday.”
A department spokesperson confirmed Tuesday that “most sites are starting tomorrow” and said residents can find more information on locations and availability at vaccinatelacounty.com.
But officials say they expect to be able to soon begin the pediatric vaccine campaign in earnest. California has ordered almost 400,000 pediatric vaccine doses, according to the state Department of Public Health.
With the CDC expected to allow COVID vaccines for infants and toddlers, California’s youngest children may start receiving shots by early next week.
As those shots arrive, they will be administered through a network of more than 8,500 sites, “with additional doses becoming available in subsequent weeks,” the department said in a statement to The Times.
Residents can view available locations and book appointments through MyTurn. State officials also noted that “retail pharmacies are prohibited from administering vaccines to children under the age of 3. We encourage parents to call pharmacies in advance to learn what vaccines they have in stock and what age groups they are vaccinating.”
Dr. Mark Ghaly, California’s health and human services secretary, called the expansion of vaccine eligibility to the youngest children “an exciting time in our fight against COVID-19.”
“This means that the whole family, essentially, can be vaccinated,” he said in a video statement posted on Twitter. “That means protection against the short-term and long-term consequences of COVID; that means an opportunity to take that summer vacation, send your kid off to summer camp, send them to a birthday party, get ready for school — things that I know many of us have done with a bit of trepidation over the last couple of years. [It] means that our young people can thrive in the activities we know make a difference in their lives.”
Federal health officials last week authorized children as young as 6 months old to receive either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine.
The nation’s youngest children are getting their chance at vaccines for COVID-19.
While the former had already been available for those who are at least 5 years old, Moderna had, to this point, been an adults-only vaccine.
“We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a statement Saturday. “I encourage parents and caregivers with questions to talk to their doctor, nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the benefits of vaccinations and the importance of protecting their children by getting them vaccinated."
The Moderna offering is administered as a two-dose course for the youngest children, with the shots given one month apart. Each shot is a quarter of the typical adult dose.
Three Pfizer shots, each one-tenth the dose given to adults, are needed — with the initial two given three weeks apart and the third following at least eight weeks after.
Though health officials acknowledge that COVID-19 generally hasn’t hit younger children as hard as other age groups, they stress that young kids are not immune from serious health impacts and that vaccines can provide valuable protection.
U.S. health advisors have recommended COVID-19 vaccines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers — the last group without the shots.
In a joint statement, Ghaly and California Department of Public Health Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón noted that “COVID-19 hospitalizations for children under 4 years old were five times higher during the Omicron surge than during Delta, and one in five children hospitalized with COVID-19 were also admitted to the ICU.”
“COVID-19 has become one of the top five leading causes of death in children and vaccines make these deaths preventable,” they said. “Studies have shown that getting our children vaccinated is the safest way to protect them from the worst outcomes of COVID-19, including hospitalization, long COVID, multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and death.
“Getting everyone in our homes and communities vaccinated reduces the chances for the virus to spread to those we love most.”
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