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5- to 11-year-olds now eligible for COVID vaccines

VERMONT — Finally, after 20 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, the largest remaining group of those at risk — our kids — will be able to get the protection of a vaccine.

Vermont opened registration Wednesday morning for children ages 5-11 to get their first dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, after the CDC gave its final approval on Tuesday night. Parents can register their children on the Vermont Health Department website: healthvermont.gov.

Here’s what we know so far about Vermont’s plan to vaccinate school-age children: State-run community vaccination sites, schools and some pharmacies will be the first to start giving the shots to kids, followed in mid-November by pediatrician offices.

Shoreham Elementary School has already alerted the Shoreham and Bridport communities that students can get their first dose of the free vaccine at their schools on Nov. 16 and their second on Dec. 7. Middlebury Union Middle School is hosting a clinic for its students on Dec. 21 and Jan. 11, and Mary Hogan Elementary School plans to host clinics for its students on Jan. 13 and Feb. 3.

Students of those schools don’t have to wait until these clinics to get their shots, though; they can register for something sooner on the health department website, or at a pharmacy or doctor’s office.

At the school clinics, nurses from the Vermont Department of Health will administer the Pfizer vaccine, and school staff will be on hand for support. School nurses will be onsite monitoring students for side effects. Parents or caregivers may accompany their child during the shot, but only students may be vaccinated at the clinic.

The dose for children ages 5-11 is one-third of the adult dose, but it is administered on the same schedule: two shots, three weeks apart. Some 4,600 children were involved in the trials during the Delta surge, and according to Dr. Rebecca Bell, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Vermont Chapter; no serious adverse effects were reported.

At Gov. Phil Scott’s Tuesday press conference, Bell said Vermont pediatricians are overwhelmingly in favor of and excited about this vaccine.

“We unequivocally recommend this vaccine for every Vermont child age eligible,” she said. “We believe the benefit of this vaccine will provide protection for every Vermont child.”

Do you have questions about the vaccine? The AAP Vermont Chapter is hosting a series of conversations with Vermont pediatricians on Zoom, starting Nov. 8. Find details at aapvt.org.

Bell, who has two unvaccinated children of her own, said she is really looking forward to getting her 6-year-old vaccinated as soon as possible. Her younger son, who is only 4, will have to wait.

“The story of his life,” she said, acknowledging that for some parents of babies and toddlers, the wait goes on.

The vaccine for 5-to-11-year-olds comes at a time when that age group is one of the most affected groups in the Delta surge. Children in that age range have a much higher COVID case rate than adults, and a higher rate than children under 4 or over 11 years old, according to data from the Department of Financial Regulation.

In general, the latest COVID data is mixed. Cases statewide are down 8% from 14 days ago, but up 12% in the past seven days, said Mike Pieciak, commissioner of the financial regulation department. He said the latest COVID trajectory suggests that deaths should decline in the coming weeks, but not all forecast models share the same predictions about the future of the state’s fatalities.

Editor’s note: VTDigger’s Erin Petenko contributed to this story.

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