By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior writer, email@example.com
Sam Freeze didn’t waste any time getting her two young children vaccinated against COVID-19 this week.
The Indianapolis mom and her husband, Ben, who are both fully vaccinated, had been eagerly anticipating approval of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for use in kids 6 months to 5 years.
Because the state’s appointment website has been experiencing problems, Freeze got on the phone and started calling pharmacies around town Tuesday. She found an appointment that day at an independent pharmacy in Castleton for Johanna, 4½, and Henry, 2.
“We’ve been anxiously awaiting this day,” she said. “It’s been a top priority to get our kids vaccinated.”
That’s what Riley pediatrician Dr. Sarah Bosslet likes to hear.
“The daycare closures, the missed work, the amount of anxiety and stress COVID has caused families … to be able to vaccinate these kids and not worry so much in child-care settings and out in public is just huge,” the physician and mother of four said.
CALL 211 TO GET THE SHOT
Currently, she advises parents to call 211 or visit ourshot.in.gov to schedule their child’s vaccine appointment. Riley is operating five vaccine clinics evenings and Saturday mornings on all sides of town. To learn more, click here.
In addition, she said, Riley is ramping up access to the vaccine in pediatrician offices. By July, she said, parents should expect to be able to get their child’s vaccine during a scheduled visit, but for the next couple of weeks they might want to call ahead to find out if it will be available.
While Freeze and her family have so far avoided contracting the virus, they know of more and more people around them who are testing positive.
“We’ve been talking about it to our 4-year-old for a long time,” Freeze said. “We talked about the ‘germies’ and why her school closed. We are up-to-date on all of her other vaccinations, so for her, getting this vaccine was no different. It’s something we’re doing to keep ourselves safe and to help our friends and our community.”
440 YOUNG KIDS HAVE DIED
Dr. Bosslet said some parents are under the misconception that COVID isn’t serious in kids, so they wonder if their child really needs the vaccine.
“The perception early on was that this was a disease of adults, and then the Omicron wave happened,” she said, causing a surge in infections in young people. “It is still really important to get the COVID vaccine for these babies.”
While only about 3% of COVID cases in the United States to date were in kids 6 months to 4 years old, hospitalization and death rates in that group are higher than those for older children, according to CDC data. Since the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, more than 440 children ages 1 to 4 have died from the virus in the U.S.
For Freeze, a genetic counselor who used to work at Riley, helping to educate friends and family about the virus and the vaccine is her passion.
“I feel like I’m that annoying friend who wants to make sure everyone gets the vaccine,” she laughed, adding that she has encouraged people in her friend group to ask questions if they need help sifting through information that in the beginning was coming out fast and furious.
Now that the virus has been around for a while, she said she is most concerned with the long-term effects of COVID, including long COVID in kids and other chronic conditions.
HER FIRST COVID SHOT
The week before the CDC approved use of the low-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines in very young children, Katy Key’s daughter, Avery, turned 5 and was eligible to get her first shot in the previously approved 5-11 age group.
In a post on Facebook, Key, who lives in southern Indiana, wrote about how happy her daughter was to get her first COVID vaccine, joining her parents in being protected from serious illness with the disease.
“She was very excited when she got to go and get her own COVID card,” Key said.
“Even when she was 3, she would ask when she could get hers. We had talked about COVID and she kind of knew what it was and how we were trying to keep ourselves and others safe.”
The reason she posted the photo, she said, was to show people that the vaccine shouldn’t be a scary thing.
“The more that people can talk about it and hear others’ accounts, they feel more comfortable,” she said.
Avery, who is going into kindergarten in the fall, cried a few tears when she got the shot but otherwise handled it like a champ, her mom said.
The little girl, who was listening to her mom’s phone conversation Sunday, piped up: “Now it doesn’t hurt anymore, but I did have like a little bruising when they took the Band-Aid off,” she said.
The entire family, which also includes Key’s husband, Jordan, and 7-month-old Teddy, came down with COVID last month, but no one got seriously ill.
Key plans to have her baby boy vaccinated as soon as it Is available in his pediatrician’s office.
PROTECTING THE YOUNGEST
Dr. Bosslet said there is no reason to wait to get vaccinated after having the virus, as long as you no longer have symptoms, and it can be given at the same time as other childhood vaccines.
“The COVID vaccine alone is very good at keeping you out of the hospital and preventing long-term complications and death,” she said. “If you’ve had COVID infection and then you get the vaccine, your protection is even better.”
With the start of school just around the corner again, it’s more important than ever to get kids protected, she said.
The Moderna vaccine for the youngest kids is a two-shot series given four weeks apart, and the Pfizer vaccine is three shots – two doses three weeks apart and the third at least two months after the second shot.
Studies showed the approved vaccines’ efficacy in reducing symptomatic infection ranged from 37% to 80%.