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Demand Strong for 5-11 COVID Vaccine: Local Officials

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Fresno healthcare providers and officials say vaccinations for kids ages 5-11 are off to a strong start. (Shutterstock)
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Local hospitals and clinics are vaccinating children ages 5-11 following the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 for children in that age group.

“It’s easy as long as you keep yourself calm and you don’t worry about it. Honestly, it’s all gonna be OK. You won’t even feel it.” — 9-year-old Norah Kerr 

Among the first recipients: Norah Kerr, a 9-year-old Valley Children’s Hospital patient.

She wasn’t nervous about the shot and advises other children to stay calm.

“It’s easy as long as you keep yourself calm and you don’t worry about it. Honestly, it’s all gonna be OK,” said Norah. “You won’t even feel it.”

Full approval for this age range will help not only increase vaccination in the population but will also help bring a return to normal, said Fresno County interim health officer Dr. Rais Vohra, hinting that it could lead to a removal of the mask mandates in schools.

“Hopefully, you know, these vaccines will help protect this age group in the same way that they really help protect the adults and really allow us to plan for more normal times moving forward,” said Vohra.

Big Turnout for First Days of 5-11 Vaccines

The county’s health department manager, Joe Prado said this has been an exciting week for many parents who had been hoping to vaccinate their youngest children.

“I love my phone when it blows up about my friends and family texted me that they either got an appointment for their child or they’re actually getting them vaccinated,” said Prado.

Dr. Kenny Banh from the UCSF Fresno COVID equity project said they started administering vaccines for the younger age group on Wednesday.

Over the span of the last three days, Banh and his team have administered over 200 pediatric vaccines in the 5- 11 age groups at their site at the UC Merced Fresno building across from the Fashion Fair Mall.

We think there’s going to be a huge demand this weekend because of school and after-school activities. I’ve already just gotten a lot of contacts and people lined up or saying that they will be coming in this weekend,” said Banh.

Valley Children’s Hosts 5-11 Vaccine Clinics Through December

Valley Children’s began distributing Pfizer vaccines for children ages 5-11 on Thursday and will have a clinic Saturday.

Robert Segura, a spokesman for the hospital, says they will be continuing to hold vaccine clinics periodically for the next few weeks to help accommodate for family schedules.

The hospital received an initial allocation of more than 5,000 doses for this younger age group. Segura says the hospital doesn’t anticipate running out of vaccines.

Dr. Hailey Nelson, a complex care pediatrician with the hospital, says she was excited to bring her kids to get vaccinated. She sees the approval for this younger age group as a step forward.

“I think if you still have questions, talk to your doctor,  that’s what we’re here for,” said Nelson. “My kids today, they did well, and looking at the studies, parents worry about side effects and really, it’s a third of a dose, and so we expect less side effects, if any for kids. So, be reassured that it’s going to go well.”

Dr. Hailey Nelson, Valley Children’s complex care pediatrician says she was very excited to get her children vaccinated and says possible side effects for children are very low. (Valley Children’s Hospital)

Valley Children’s vaccine clinic will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Where Can Get A COVID Vaccine for Your Child?

Fresno County received 6,000 doses that were redistributed among local providers. Another 9,000 await in the pipeline if they are needed, said Prado.

“Next week will be our first full week with the 5 – 11 doses,” said Prado. “So we’re hoping that the following week we can get a little more data as far as what that looks like for that 5 – 11 population.”

Signing up 5-to-11-year-olds follows the same routine as for anyone else using the MyTurn portal. Parents will be able to click on the 5 – 11 age group to find the nearest clinic.

However, Prado says the MyTurn portal is not the only place to go for vaccines. Parents can also visit CVS and Walgreens, among other pharmacies, clinics, and pediatric physicians.

“We’ve got some of our pediatricians who actually have vaccine doses, and you can give them a call to see if they have any vaccines available,” said Prado.

Liz Juarez joined GV Wire in July, 2021 as a Digital News Producer. She has experience working for publications around the Central Valley including the Clovis Roundup, Porterville Recorder and Hanford Sentinel. While in college, she interned for Mountain West Athletics and served as Outreach Chair for the Fresno State Radio and Television Digital News Association (RTDNA). Liz earned a bachelor's degree in Media Communications and Journalism at Fresno State and a master's degree in Communications from Arizona State University. In her down time, she enjoys reading, drawing and staying active by playing basketball, taking trips to the coast and visiting national parks. You can contact Liz at liz.juarez@gvwire.com