Pediatrician or pharmacy? Expert weighs in on how to get a Covid vaccine appointment for your child

Pediatrician or pharmacy? Expert weighs in on how to get a Covid vaccine appointment for your child
Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press/USA Today Network

Now that health officials in the US have issued emergency use authorization for a vaccine for younger children, the next step in vaccinating children is families finding the nearest dose.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Tuesday that children ages 5 to 11 get a version of Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine that is about one-third the dose given to kids 12 and older and adults.

Pfizer began packing up pediatric doses to be distributed shortly after, with the company saying 11 million doses are expected to go out in the first 10 days — but some families may not know the best way to get a vaccination for their children.

The first step is to call your pediatrician’s office and see when their next appointment is available, Dr. Leana Wen, a CNN medical analyst, said.

If the wait time is just a matter of days, Wen said she would wait and take the appointment. For those who are booked for weeks, it may be best to get on a waitlist with the physician and look for other options.

Chain and local pharmacies can be the next stop, recommended Wen, who is also an emergency physician and professor of health policy and management at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health.

“Make sure to mention your child’s exact age, as some places may not give shots to young kids. If they are not sure yet, call back the next day — a lot is changing very quickly,” she said.

Walgreens announced its pharmacies will begin administering pediatric Covid-19 vaccines across the nation beginning Saturday. Parents and guardians are able to make appointments on the website for the first vaccine dose shipments, and more appointments will become available as more shipments arrive, the company said in a news release.

Local health departments may also be able to provide information on vaccine clinics, Wen added.

More than half of US states do not specify that their vaccinations are for residents only, meaning if you have trouble securing an appointment locally, you may be able to be vaccinated in a nearby state.

Families should get kids vaccinated as soon as possible, experts say

The recommendation of the vaccine to children should be a cause for celebration, but it’s understandable if parents still have questions, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday.

“We are now beginning to roll out, to distribute the vaccine, to give parents the information that they need,” she said. “Go talk to your pediatrician, your trusted health care provider, your pharmacist and get the information that you need as we start scaling up vaccine across this country.”

The US has been preparing for children to become eligible for the vaccine, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN’s Brianna Keilar on New Day Wednesday that officials plan to make doses available quickly.

“That was what the preparedness was about,” Fauci said. “It’s a good thing. We’ll hit the ground running and probably by the beginning of next week, we’ll be at full speed.”

Children won’t have the chance to be fully vaccinated — which is two weeks after their second dose — by Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, but with a first appointment by November 19, they can have full protection for Christmas, Kwanzaa and end-of-year gatherings.

If families and friends are getting together indoors for the holidays, it is crucial that children who can be vaccinated are, Wen said.

“There is a common, but very false, narrative out there that somehow children are not susceptible to severe outcomes from Covid-19, which is just not true,” Wen said. “Understandably, parents want to protect their children.”

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