This story appeared in the Detroit Free Press. Read more here

Registered nurse Julie Harvey slowly inverted an orange-capped vial, top to bottom, bottom to top, early Wednesday morning, mixing the first pediatric dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be given at the IHA Pediatrics Office in downtown Plymouth.

In a nearby room, Christian Davis, 9, and his brother Cameron, 6, waited for their shots.

The boys were among the first children in Michigan to get vaccinated on the heels of a decision Tuesday night by federal regulators to allow kids ages 5-11 to get the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine.

Cameron held a white stuffed tiger he calls Dylan, and wore a dinosaur mask. He held tightly to his mom, Tyann Davis, as his big brother got a jab.

“I wanted the shot, but I don’t like shots that much,” said Christian, a fourth-grader at Dolsen Elementary School in South Lyon, who winced when the needle went in. “I wanted to protect myself.”

When Christian’s shot was done, he fist-bumped his mom, who said watching her boys get their first COVID-19 vaccine doses was “like opening presents on Christmas.”

“I’m just excited,” she said. “It’s just an extra protection, and that’s what we really want for them.”

The Davis children each got a 10-microgram dose of the vaccine — one-third the amount adults are given — and will get a second dose in about three weeks.

Tyann Davis, left, holds the hand of her son Cameron Davis as medical assistant Madison Peterson gives him the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in the IHA Pediatrics medical office in Plymouth, Michigan, on Nov. 3, 2021.
How effective is the vaccine in kids?
At this dosage, the vaccine is about 91% effective in preventing severe illness in children after the second injection, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and was shown in clinical trials to cause no serious side effects.

“The decision to authorize this Pfizer vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds is another reason for hope,” said Dr. Natasha Bagdasarian, the state’s chief medical executive. “Yesterday’s decision will help move us forward toward safer classrooms, family gatherings, participation in sports celebrations and all kinds of other milestones.

“While most children with COVID-19 have mild symptoms, and some have no symptoms at all, there is no way to know how severe an individual case will be. And we’ve seen many severe cases and hospitalizations in younger people. That risk is particularly true for children with underlying conditions such as asthma.”

The most commonly reported side effects include soreness, redness and swelling at the injection site, fatigue, muscle aches, headache, nausea and fever, which typically go away within 24 to 48 hours, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We have given these vaccines to millions of individuals and we can tell you that … we have not seen the types of negative consequences that we do see in COVID-19 viral infection,” Bagdasarian said. “And so when you weigh the risks and benefits, the risks of vaccination are significantly, significantly less than the risks of having an infection.”

Dr. Matthew Hornik, president of the Michigan chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said the number of COVID-19 infections and other respiratory viruses in children “is dramatically increasing,” putting unprecedented pressure on the health care workforce.

The vaccine, he said, is “the best way to keep our children healthy and in the classroom this year” and break the cycle of illness and hospitalization.

“Our clinics, emergency departments and hospitals are all reaching capacity,” Hornik said. “More than 450 children under the age of 12 become infected with COVID-19 each day. With more confirmed cases, we are seeing more children seeking care for COVID-19 symptoms and more children are being hospitalized because of that.”

It’s led to higher rates of children needing intensive hospital care, too.

“Any time children are being hospitalized, this is extremely concerning to us as pediatricians,” Hornik said, adding that COVID-19 is now the sixth-leading cause of death in children.

Should kids who’ve had COVID-19 get the shot?

Children who have already had COVID-19 and have some natural immunity should still get a vaccine, Bagdasarian said.

“We still recommend vaccination and it’s simply because we don’t know enough about natural immunity,” she said. “We don’t know how long it lasts or how protective it is, as compared to the data we have on the vaccines where we really understand how the vaccines work and how long protection is offered.”

Asher Nelson, 10, of Novi, told his mom, Rachel Nelson, that he wanted the COVID-19 vaccine for his birthday, which was on Halloween.

He missed the goal by just a few days, and got his first dose Wednesday morning at the IHA Pediatrics Office just after his classmate, Christian Davis.

“I wanted to get it over with and to be able to see my friends again” and to travel to see his grandparents, who live in Arizona and Minnesota, he said.

That part of dealing with the pandemic, he said, has been “hard” as his eyes welled up with tears.

How to get your child a vaccine appointment in Michigan

It may take a little time to find a vaccine appointment for your child, health officials told the Free Press, as the vaccines are formulated in a different dose for 5- to 11-year-old children, and pharmacies, doctor’s offices, local health departments and hospitals are working to set up clinics for them.

On Wednesday morning it still wasn’t easy to find an available appointment. The state health department’s vaccine website, michigan.gov/covidvaccine, links to the federal vaccines.gov. But the federal site doesn’t yet include an option to schedule appointments for 5- to 11-year-old children.

“Providers have already been receiving the preordered vaccine and can start immunizing the 5-11 age group today,” Bagdasarian said. “Many local health departments are also working with school districts and other community organizations to administer vaccines to eligible children.”

Here are some options:

Walgreens: Thousands of Walgreens stores nationally will have pediatric doses of the vaccine available for use in kids ages 5-11, a spokesperson for the company told the Free Press Tuesday. You can schedule an immunization at a local Walgreens for your child by going to bit.ly/3mEjbRr.

CVS: As of Wednesday, 1,700 CVS Pharmacy locations nationwide — including more than 20 in Michigan — began accepting appointments for children ages 5-11. Those appointments begin Sunday.

Patients are encouraged to schedule an appointment online at cvs.com or through the CVS Pharmacy app to ensure availability. The CVS scheduling tool will only display appointments at CVS Pharmacy locations that have the Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine once the patient’s age is provided.

Parents/guardians should contact their child’s medical provider for details. The vaccine will also be available through Ascension Michigan School Based Health Centers in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Genesee and St. Joseph counties.

Beaumont Health: Registration for a limited number of appointments for kids ages 5-11 will begin online early next week through the hospital system, although parents should make sure now that they have a MyBeaumontChart set up for their child with parental access to ensure they can register.

Vaccine clinics will be offered:

Nov. 12 and 19 at Beaumont Hospital, Troy
Nov. 13 and 20 at the Beaumont Service Center in Southfield

“While we are pleased to offer a limited number of appointments, we recognize that the most convenient access to the pediatric COVID vaccine may be at the local health department, a neighborhood pharmacy or your child’s pediatrician office if available,” Beaumont said in a statement released Tuesday night.

Henry Ford Health System: Details were still being put in place Wednesday morning. But in a statement, the hospital system said: “We are finalizing our plans with the goal of offering vaccination for existing Henry Ford Health System patients at our pediatric, family medicine and school-based health clinics. In the meantime, we encourage families to get their children vaccinated wherever and whenever is most convenient.”

Michigan Medicine: Michigan Medicine plans to offer the vaccine through clinics at several sites starting the week of Nov. 8. Updates should be available soon on the University of Michigan Health C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital website at mottchildren.org/covid-19-vaccines-adolescents-children.

Once scheduling for COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11 opens, appointments can be scheduled through the MyUofMHealth patient portal.

The Detroit Medical Center: Go to bit.ly/3BCOCjq to schedule an appointment to get your child vaccinated at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan Specialty Center, 3950 Beaubien Blvd., Detroit.

Trinity Health: Parents are encouraged to call ahead to any IHA or St. Joe’s Medical Group primary care office to schedule COVID-19 vaccinations for their children or to make an appointment online at IHAcares.com.

“Supplies will be limited until additional shipments arrive and practices can ramp up volume,” said Bobby Maldonado, a spokesperson for the St. Joseph Mercy Health System.

Wayne County Public Health Department: Immunizations are expected to be available starting next week at health department clinics as well as at vaccine events at schools across the county and via in-home immunizations.

More information can be found on the county’s website at .waynecounty.com/covid19/vaccination.aspx. To schedule an in-home vaccination, residents can call 866-610-3885.

Oakland County Health Division: After-school clinics are being planned for next week inside school buildings in the county, said Bill Mullan, spokesperson for County Executive Dave Coulter. More details will be released Thursday, though Mullan said the clinics will not be limited to students who attend classes in those school districts. Children from anywhere in the county can go to a school clinic to be vaccinated.

Appointments are strongly recommended by going online to oaklandcountyvaccine.com. Parents or guardians will need to be with their children when they are vaccinated.

Detroit Health Department: The department is coordinating with Detroit Public Schools Community District as well as charter and private schools to ensure vaccination clinics are in place with an ample supply of doses, said Barb Roethler, director of marketing and communications.

City officials also plan to offer educational webinars and town halls for parents or guardians about the vaccine and have clinicians available to answer questions and address hesitancy. More specifics are expected to be announced later this week with details available at detroitmi.gov/health.

Macomb County Health Department: Pediatric vaccine appointments are available at health department vaccine clinics in Clinton Township and Warren. They can be scheduled online at macombgov.org/covidvaccine. Parents or guardians also can call 586-463-3750 (press option 1) to schedule an appointment, said Andrew Cox, director/health officer.

The department is continuing its partnership with pediatricians, the Macomb Intermediate School District and school districts within the county “to pursue opportunities to make the vaccine available to this important audience as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Cox said.

Ingham County Health Department: A COVID-19 vaccine clinic for 5- to 11-year-olds is set for Thursday at the health department office, 5303 S. Cedar St., Lansing. Appointments will be available from 9 to 11:30 a.m. and 1 to 4 p.m.

Additional availability of the pediatric doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will continue at upcoming Tuesday and Friday clinics. To schedule an appointment, go to hd.ingham.org/coronavirus/r_1013.aspx or call 517-887-4623.

To schedule a COVID-19 vaccine appointment at an Ingham Community Health Center, call 517-887-4517, and choose option 3.

Washtenaw County Health Department: The health department will offer vaccines for children ages 5-11 beginning Tuesday by appointment.

Available appointments for children will be posted at noon Friday and Monday with a scheduling link at washtenaw.org/covid19vaccine. If you cannot schedule online, contact the health department at 734-544-6700 or health@washtenaw.org.

The first appointments will be Nov. 9, and there is no waiting list. If you get an earlier vaccination appointment, cancel your scheduled health department appointment so someone else can use it.

Kent County Health Department: Appointments are now being scheduled for 5- to 11-year-old children through the health department by calling 616-632-7200.

Clinic hours will be extended to 8 a.m. to 11:45 a.m. and 12:45 p.m. to 6:45 p.m. Nov. 9 and 16.

A parent or legal guardian is required to attend the vaccination appointment or send an attestation form with an adult who is at least 18 years old, stating they are legally allowed to sign on behalf of any minor child for the vaccine. This adult should be familiar with the medical history of the child.