One by one, as little children received their first COVID-19 shot Saturday at Paint Branch High School, there were celebrations. After an injection was administered, nearby nurses would applaud and the child would pick up a stuffed animal or other reward.
In mid-June, the Food and Drug Administration approved COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months old. The county began administering vaccines to children in this age group about a week after approval.
Paint Branch in Silver Spring was one of three schools in the county to host an immunization clinic Saturday as part of a partnership between Montgomery County Public Schools and the county Department of Health and Human Services. The others were held at Clarksburg High and Shady Grove Middle schools. Clinics are also scheduled for Sunday at Paint Branch, Gaithersburg Middle and Montgomery Blair high schools.
Some of the children who received the vaccine were nervous on Saturday and a few cried despite positive encouragement from parents. But their hesitation turned to joy after the firing ended and they heard a ‘yay’ from a nurse, or those nearby clapped. At one table, families and their children excitedly pored over a variety of stuffed animals, bookmarks and educational coronavirus coloring books.
Moments after Chris Irby’s daughter Ava got the shot, Olney’s dad said he had more peace of mind.
When asked how his daughter reacted to the shot, Irby said “some shots are better than others. Today wasn’t the best. But Irby said the vaccine is important because it gives them allows you to go out in public with less anxiety.
“When we were in daycare she didn’t have the vaccine because she was too young, so we were a little nervous and protective about who we were and what activities we did as adults, just to make sure she wouldn’t be affected by COVID,” he said.
Holly Goyer, of Bethesda, said she was thrilled that her two sons, ages 2 and 4, were getting vaccinated on Saturday.
“My husband was working here today, and so we dropped him off, and then we did a little hike, and we came over here and we were done,” she said.
James Bridgers, the county’s acting health officer, told Bethesda Beat at Saturday’s event that this is the second weekend that MCPS and the health department have held the vaccination clinics for the children under 5 years old. He said 1,200 injections were given to children in this age group last weekend. .
By Saturday morning, 4,000 of about 50,000 children under age 5 (8%) had received an injection, Bridgers said.
“It’s been over two weeks. It’s amazing what our clinics have done,” he said.
MCPS Chief Medical Officer Patricia Kapunan said Saturday that schools where vaccination clinics are held are chosen to ensure equitable access for families.
“One thing that was taken into consideration when choosing these sites is proximity to early intervention and youth programs for young children,” she said. “So I think when we chose which schools, it was really with that specific population in mind, and with an idea of health equity, and making sure the vaccine was available for the population that might have the most barriers.”
Kapunan said his understanding so far is that there hasn’t been as much rush for families of children under 5 to get vaccinated as for previous age groups.
“What I’m hearing from my colleagues in the community is that parents are taking a little longer to make that decision and be ready for their kids,” she said. “So I think overall adoption will be slower, but from what we’ve seen in the last week, people are really excited and ready.”
Families with young children had to wait about a year and a half after the vaccines were first rolled out to adult populations.
Tali Elitzur, from Forest Glen, took her son, who is 1.5 years old, and her daughter, who is almost 4, to the Paint Branch clinic on Saturday to be vaccinated.
“We are so excited and so relieved,” she said. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time.”
Dan Schere can be contacted at [email protected]