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Health, Science & Environment

Heads up Utah parents: Vaccines for kids 6 months and older are finally here

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Even though your child might have gotten COVID in the past, Cindy Wynette with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services said it’s still a good idea to get vaccinated especially as cases continue to rise in several counties.

For some parents, the long-awaited release of both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children 6 months and older brings a sense of relief.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention authorized their use June 18. The Utah Department of Health and Human Services has ordered 32,300 doses in anticipation of the release.

Nearly 241,000 Utah children are eligible for the vaccines. About 8,000 doses have already been administered among 30 providers as of Tuesday, according to the department.

Paul Gibbs, a West Valley resident, has a 3-year-old son named Peter. Because Gibbs had a kidney transplant years ago and has been on immunosuppressant medications, he and his family have been very careful about potential exposure.

Getting his son vaccinated now means he can attend preschool safely in the fall.

“That was a big worry before whether we would be able to allow him to do that when he couldn't be vaccinated. It means that we can feel safe allowing him to have fun and just be a kid,” he said.

Still, there are some parents who are hesitant about vaccinating their children either because of side effects or mistrust.

Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah and director of epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, said he understands those worries but it’s a trade-off.

“We don't know everything that we're going to learn in terms of the very rare side effects that may occur. But you have to balance that against the risks of the disease,” he said. “And what we know and what I've seen for the last two and a half years is that although kids don't get sick as often as adults do, they can get very, very sick with COVID.”

Pavia pointed to the omicron surge and the record number of hospitalizations among children. He also emphasized the impacts of long COVID that have plagued some adults.

“This virus does things throughout the body that are not good that we don't fully understand,” he said. “And it's not a chance I think you really want to take if in a substantial minority of adults. They're seeing changes on their brain scans, it suggests brain damage. You know, is that happening to some fraction of kids who get COVID? We don't know. But we have a way of preventing that.” 

Vaccine dosage is based on the brand of the vaccine and a child’s age — Pfizer requires three shots while Moderna is two doses.

Cindy Wynette, COVID-19 Immunization Program Manager for the Utah Department of Health and Human Services, said they’ve been preparing for this for a while but she’s still asking parents to be patient.

“In this first week or two as our providers get their systems and staff prepared to administer [vaccines]. We have doses arriving basically every day this week, and also the number of doses and the number of providers offering this age group will continue to increase over the next few weeks,” she said.

Even though your child might have gotten COVID in the past, Wynette said it’s still a good idea to get vaccinated especially as cases continue to rise in several counties. She said there are clinical trials showing the safety of these vaccines.

“The more infectious disease spreads, especially a respiratory disease like this, the more that it mutates and we create new variants,” she said. “And even though your child may have had COVID in the past and those antibodies are great, however, antibodies created from vaccination just provide added protection as well.”

While the University of Utah and Pediatrics will begin to get vaccines by the end of the week Salt Lake County Health is already offering both.

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