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Top state health officials, pediatricians and vaccine advocates on Wednesday urged parents to get Michigan’s 825,000 children ages 5 to 11 vaccinated against COVID-19, as appointments began opening after the U.S. gave the final signoff to Pfizer’s kid-size shots.

More than 450 children under age 12 are becoming infected with the coronavirus each day in Michigan. The risk of severe disease and death is low in young children. But experts said there is no way to know how serious an individual case will be, saying vaccinations are the way out of the pandemic.

“Yesterday’s decision will help move us forward towards safer classrooms, family gatherings, participation in sports, celebrations and all kinds of other milestones,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical executive.

Pharmacies, local health departments and other providers have begun receiving the doses, which are a third of the amount given to teens and adults. The 5- to 11-year-olds will receive two low doses, three weeks apart.

Dr. Matthew Hornik, a pediatrician in West Bloomfield and president of the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said about one-third of the 8,300-plus kids in that age group in the U.S. who have been hospitalized for COVID-19 required intensive care.

“Our goal for our patients is to promote health and do what we can to prevent infection and illness. And we know what has worked for decades and continues to work. And that’s vaccines,” he said. “The benefits of the vaccine greatly outweigh the risks.”

Vaccine: West Michigan parents say COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5-11 will provide new freedoms
State officials did not estimate how many children ages 5 to 11 will get the shots. About 62% of residents 12 and older are fully vaccinated, below the 68% figure nationwide.