SAN JOSE, California (AP) – Scavenger hunts and bouncy animals welcomed kids to some California vaccination sites on Wednesday, as kids ages 5-11 received their first COVID-19 shots a day after the federal government approved childhood vaccination doses.
One keen eleven year old boy described his experience in one word: “Awesome!” – said the sixth grader Ragab Vista. “I’ve been waiting for a vaccination for a very long time.”
Whist and his father, Hemant, who visited the San Jose vaccine clinic, shared everything they look forward to again – eating at a restaurant, catching the train and heading to their favorite family destinations like Disneyland. “This is a very important milestone for us,” said his father.
As part of an ambitious coronavirus vaccination plan for California’s 3.5 million children in this age group, the state intends to offer vaccines in locations including school clinics, pharmacies, pediatric surgeries and county sites, many of which will launch in the coming days. … Health officials said they expect 1.2 million initial doses of the pediatric vaccine.
Santa Clara County, home of Silicon Valley where San Jose is located, began giving injections early Wednesday, and appointments were quickly made. The district expects to receive about 55,000 doses this week and will open additional clinics in 80 schools and send mobile vaccination teams to low-income areas.
“We know that many parents are very keen to vaccinate their children ahead of the holidays,” said Dr. Jennifer Tong, who oversees the county’s mass vaccination program. “Yesterday we received our batch of vaccine, and we had no good reason to sit on it. So we said let’s do this show on tour. “
Many sections of Santa Clara County were adorned with childish motifs such as animals and included games such as scavenger hunts, while others distributed coloring books, prizes, and stickers to newly vaccinated youths.
Several clinics in Los Angeles County also began administering doses to children on Wednesday, according to the county health department. The county is the most populous in the country with 10 million inhabitants, including about 900,000 children aged 5 to 11.
Appointments for this age group are expected to appear on the California vaccination website myturn.ca.gov on Thursday. Several other counties, including Contra Costa and Marin in Northern California, have planned to begin rolling out vaccinations at mass vaccination sites this weekend.
California has one of the highest vaccination rates in the country, but a small minority remain skeptical about both the vaccine and government assurances of its safety. More than 1,000 people gathered outside the state capitol last month to protest the vaccine.
California has some of the strictest camouflage and vaccination requirements in the country, but new cases and hospitalizations are on the rise again. Over the past two weeks, the number of new cases has increased by 11% and the number of hospitalizations increased by more than 200. According to government models, the number of hospitalizations will continue as cold weather and holidays force people to go inside.
Gov. Gavin Newsom announced last month that California will introduce the nation’s first coronavirus vaccine for schoolchildren – about 6.7 million students in public and private schools in the nation’s most populous state – after the federal government finalizes vaccinations. The mandate will be phased in and will likely not take effect until next July.
Newsom welcomed the new availability Wednesday, saying the pandemic “has severely damaged the well-being of our children.”
Pfizer-BioNTech children’s vaccine doses overcame two last hurdles on Tuesday: a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention consultants, followed by a green light from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC.
The federal government has pledged enough vaccines to protect the country’s 28 million children in this age group, and many enthusiastic parents rush to vaccinate their youngest children ahead of the holidays.
Several Kaiser Permanente hospitals in Northern California will begin offering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children as early as Monday, officials said.
“Now parents can breathe a sigh of relief,” said Dr. Kidra McNeill, Kaiser’s pediatrician and mother of two daughters, ages 6 and 8.
Kaiser, one of the largest healthcare providers in the country, participated in a Northern California trial of Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine that found the vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 was more than 90% effective, Dr. Nicola Klein said. , director of the Vaccine Research Network Center.
“We have been conducting clinical trials for 30 years and I feel very comfortable and confident that the clinical trials that were conducted on these children, children aged 5 to 11, were … conducted with the same high quality standards that were conducted for all. other vaccines that we have been studying for the past 30 years, ”she said.
In Marin County, officials expect to be able to vaccinate 1,000 children a day at shift sites, while Contra Costa County plans to open county clinics on Saturday to begin dispensing 20,000 pediatric vaccine doses expected this week.
“I know that many parents have waited a long time to get their young children vaccinated,” said Diane Burgis, Chair of the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors. “We’re almost there. If all goes well, parents will be able to fully vaccinate their children before winter break.”
Hecker reported from San Francisco. Associated Press author Olga R. Rodriguez contributed to this article.