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Why some parents 'pleading to get vaccines' for their kids will have to wait a little while longer

Posted at 4:47 PM, Jun 20, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-20 17:58:47-04

RICHMOND, Va. — A boost for parents hoping to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19. This week the Commonwealth is expected to start receiving both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots for children younger than five years old.

Vaccines have already arrived at some locations, according to Virginia Department of Health vaccine coordinator Christy Gray.

"We’re really thrilled that parents have the option now to protect the youngest of their family, really against the virus," Gray said. 

Before both vaccines received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration, VDH preordered 102,000 doses, set to be distributed across 200 locations. 

However, Gray noted that this rollout is different.

Parents are more likely to turn to their pediatricians to get the shot, rather than attend community clinics or mass vaccination sites. 

"This age range of children are usually more often going to the provider," Gray said. "They’re already getting Well Child visits and already have contact with their provider more often, so this is a really different state in which the parents are really going to be having their child vaccinated more in their primary care office.”

However, that could create a lag time.

"You have the intake of the vaccine, you want to check the vaccine to make sure it's in good condition, that it's at the correct temperature during shipment," Gray said. "You want to log it to make sure that you have inventory for it. You want to make sure your staff are trained that they know how to use this product. There's all these different steps that a provider might want to make sure they have squared away before they actually start  making appointments." 

That lag time is something Dr. Eric Freeman, a pediatrician at Old Dominion Pediatrics, said could frustrate parents eager to get their child vaccinated.

“To be honest, I have had probably 20 or 30 parents in the past two weeks, who have been begging and pleading to get vaccines in my office," Freeman said. 

Like many doctors, Dr. Freeman waited for authorization before placing a vaccine order.

Now, he's trying to determine how many doses his practice will need, as well as how they'll manage vaccination scheduling, working with the Richmond and Henrico Health Districts to get shipments. 

“It’s our understanding that hopefully over the next week or so, I think shipments will begin to roll out. I think much of that was really waiting for the CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky's blessing," Freeman said. “I think for many of us, it’s going to be a matter of just working out logistics, whether it’s scheduling. I think some practices are going to come up with certain days or times during the day where they will focus on vaccination.”

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is a three-dose series, with the first two administered 3 weeks apart and the third administered at least two months after the second dose.

The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose series administered four weeks apart.

Gray said providers can choose which vaccine to offer their patients.

"For many families that may be looking to complete their vaccination series before school starts, Moderna might be your most optimal regimen," Dr. Freeman said. "If we're really trying to ensure full vaccination before school starts, Pfizer's going to be a bit more challenging. But I think being able to provide as much choice to our parent consumers is probably going to be the best option that we can present to our patients and families."

Dr. Freeman said he's encouraging families to get their vaccine, even if a patient has had the virus before, citing a low risk of adverse reactions to the shot. 

"Just because you've had COVID before, because the virus is mutating, you can get COVID again," he said. "For those individuals who have been infected with COVID, vaccination is actually a good thing for you. Doing a vaccine will actually optimize and accelerate a more maximal immune coverage for you for future outbreaks."

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