INDIANAPOLIS — Both Indiana and Illinois state health officials on Wednesday announced that free COVID-19 vaccinations are now available for children ages 5 to 11. Kid-sized doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine cleared two final hurdles Tuesday — a recommendation from CDC advisers followed by a green light from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Having a COVID-19 vaccine available to our younger Hoosiers is a game-changer in terms of our efforts to keep children healthy and in school for in-person learning,” State Health Commissioner Kris Box, M.D., FACOG said. “Fully vaccinated individuals do not have to quarantine if they are exposed but have no symptoms, so I encourage parents to get their children vaccinated if they are eligible.”
Many parents are now deciding whether they will sign their children up to be vaccinated. Terre Haute residents Tiffany and Mark Baker who have three daughters have already made their decision.
“They’re around a lot of kids everyday,” Mark Baker said. “Kids are obviously very prone to passing around everything. Colds, flu whatever it may be. In this case COVID. If there is a way to protect our children from contracting COVID-19, then we’re going to take the steps to do that.”
The Knox County Health Department received 300 doses for children with Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes is also receiving the same amount. Vaccines for children in Knox County will begin Thursday.
“Great precautions have been taken to prevent errors,” Dr. Alan Stewart, Knox County health officer. “The vaccine is in different color valves. There’s different concentration. It is approximately one-third of the adult dose of vaccine. In Knox County we will be having our pediatric nurse give the vaccine.”
Dr. Stewart says although children often do not get as sick from the virus, there are some cases in which they do and he says the vaccine will work to prevent that.
“We have had children from our own community who have been seriously ill and have been to Riley Hospital in Indianapolis,” Dr. Stewart said. “It’s not as common to have serious illness as it is with adults but when it happens it’s very frightening.”
The Vigo County Health Department plans to begin vaccines for the new age range some time next week.
“While we’re encouraging the vaccine for all ages five and up, social distancing and masking are still recommend,” Andrea Craft, registered nurse for the Vigo County Health Department said. “All these factors play a part in stopping the spread of COVID.”
The Pfizer vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine that is currently authorized for use in individuals under age 18. The pediatric dose is lower than the dosage for those 12 and older.
“I encourage parents who may have questions about COVID-19 vaccines for their children to talk with a pediatrician or family doctor,” IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike, said. “Medical experts and scientists have reviewed the data, which included clinical trials with more than 3,000 children receiving the vaccine, and have recommended the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children.”
In Indiana, a pediatric vaccine clinic is being held from 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 4551 W. 16th St., Indianapolis. Additional locations will be updated throughout the day at www.ourshot.in.gov.
Beginning at 8 a.m. Thursday, parents who wish to schedule an appointment for their child to receive the vaccine can do so at www.ourshot.in.gov or by calling 211 or (866) 211-9966 for assistance.
In Illinois, COVID-19 vaccinations for those 5 years and older will be available at local health departments, many pharmacies, pediatrician offices, Federally Qualified Health Centers and from other providers who offer the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Additionally, the IDPH is working with schools to set up vaccination clinics.
Health officials said pediatric vaccine supplies may be limited initially as shipments arrive on a staggered basis. Individuals are encouraged to make an appointment or call ahead to ensure that a site has a vaccine available prior to visiting the location.
A parent or guardian must provide consent, and children under 16 must be accompanied to the vaccination appointment by an adult.