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COVID-19 Vaccine Available For LA County Infants And Toddlers

A 3-year-old boy in a green shirt and blue hat receives a COVID-19 vaccination in his left shoulder.
Federal health officials authorized Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children under 5 over the weekend.
(Joseph Prezioso
/
Getty Images/AFP)
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Starting Tuesday, parents of young children can finally get them vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Children as young as 6 months can receive either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, following federal health officials granting both vaccines authorization over the weekend.

Infants and toddlers were the last remaining group without access to the vaccine.

“I'm really hoping that people understand this means we can have some sense of normalcy that other people have been enjoying for a while,” said Northridge mom Manpreet Dhillon Brar.

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While the risk of death and serious COVID-19 illness is lower for young children, there have still been nearly 500 deaths in children under 5 and over 30,000 hospitalizations in the U.S.

“What they’ve shown is that [these vaccines] will be effective against hospitalization and severe disease which is really what we’re aiming for,” said Olga Guijon, a pediatrician at Children’s Health of Orange County.

Vaccination also protects the whole family, Guijon said. Young children can pass COVID-19 to other siblings or high-risk family members such as grandparents.

The Moderna vaccine consists of two shots four weeks apart. Pfizer’s vaccine is three shots. The first two are given three weeks apart. The third dose is given eight weeks after the second shot.

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Both are the same formulas that have been available, now in kid-sized shots.

The COVID-19 vaccines can be given at the same time as other childhood immunizations.

Where Can I Get Young Children Vaccinated In LA?

Many pediatricians are expected to offer the free shots.

L.A. County Public Health director Barbara Ferrer said more than 900 vaccination sites will offer vaccines to young children.

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“This includes almost 180 healthcare provider facilities, over 200 pharmacies and over 500 mobile sites and our seven Department of Public Health sites,” Ferrer said.

She cautioned parents to check that the vaccine site can give shots to your child’s age group.

“Because some of the pharmacy sites are only licensed to vaccinate children three and older, parents are encouraged to reach out ahead of time to verify hours and availability,” Ferrer said.

Parents can visit VaccinateLACounty.com or VacunateLosAngeles.com (Spanish) to learn about locations and schedules for clinics offering COVID-19 vaccines.

Retail drug stores such as CVS Minute Clinics only vaccinate children 18 months and older.

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Vaccine Hesitancy Remains

Many families were slow to vaccinate older children against coronavirus and parents of younger children might be even more hesitant to seek the shot.

A national survey in April found 18% of parents of kids under 5 are eager to get their child vaccinated right away, 38% plan to wait and see, 11% will only seek the shot if required and 27% don’t plan to immunize them against the disease.

Over the past three months, health officials in Los Angeles County say unvaccinated 12-17 years olds were nearly four times more likely to end up in the hospital due to COVID-19 than vaccinated children in the same age group.

“I think starting out with having an open conversation with a health care provider who has specifically trained and looked into this information from a scientific perspective is really important,” said Jennifer Su, a pediatric cardiologist and director of cardiomyopathy and heart function at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Su is also the parent of a 7-year-old who’s already been vaccinated and a 2-year-old who will be soon.

“We feel that this is what is going to keep you safe,” Su and her husband tell their kids. “This is what is good for our community.”

‘A Huge Relief’

The availability of the vaccine lifts a heavy weight from the people caring for young children.

Even if kids weren’t getting seriously ill from COVID-19, the pandemic has disrupted daycare, family visits and parent’s work schedules.

Bear’s 22-month-old son had open-heart surgery as a baby and is more vulnerable to serious illness from the disease. She and her husband both work full-time and didn’t enroll their son in daycare because they worried that while he was too young to wear a mask and unvaccinated the risk of catching the coronavirus was too great.

“It's always been if he had the protection, I'll feel a huge relief,” Brar said.

Brar has already started looking for child care, pending her son’s full vaccination, and hopes to celebrate his birthday with family and friends in August.

“I'm actually looking forward to planning a second birthday party for him that can look a little bit normal like a normal birthday party,” Brar said.

The availability of a vaccine is also a comfort to the people who have cared for unvaccinated children throughout the pandemic.

Caterpillar Cottage is a small play-based preschool in Northridge that’s maintained strict safety protocols. For example, children continue to wear masks indoors and out.

“But I am really looking forward to a day when I feel safe, that the risk is low enough that we will be able to take those masks off children,” Malley said.

What questions do you have about vaccines?