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Ten-year-old Mira Lutsky shows off her vaccination Band-Aid at the clinic at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in 2021.

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BENNINGTON — Vermont’s youngest children — those between the ages of 6 months to 5 years — could begin receiving vaccinations to protect against COVID-19 later this week.

“We’re just waiting for the vaccine to be shipped,” said Dr. Trey Dobson, medical director of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Putnam Physicians and SVMC’s chief medical officer. “As soon as we receive it, we’re ready to start administering it.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday approved COVID-19 vaccines for the youngest children. That approval had been expected and was eagerly anticipated.

“This is an important and welcomed step forward,” said Gov. Phil Scott in a statement. “Vermont has led the nation in vaccination uptake, especially among our youth. I’m confident Vermont parents and caregivers will continue to step up in this new phase of our vaccination efforts.”

There are about 26,000 children in this age bracket in Vermont who will now be eligible for vaccination.

“This is very welcome news for the parents and caregivers who have been waiting for more than a year now for their young children to benefit from a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mark Levine in a statement. “Vaccines are the safer way to build protection against the virus and help prevent serious outcomes.”

According to the CDC, more than 200 children between the ages of 1 and 4 have died from COVID-19, and about 20,000 have been hospitalized.

Still, it’s hard to predict how widespread demand for the vaccine will be among parents with such very young children and babies.

Dobson said Monday that he received calls that morning from parents asking when the vaccine will be available for their children.

“So there will be those initial people who want to get their children vaccinated,” he said. He said the hospital ordered a large supply of the vaccine, which is on hand if demand is high, but can be stored for two years in SVMC’s medication freezers if there is low interest in the vaccinations.

“Little kids can get sick. The rate is low, but it does happen,” Dobson said, noting that the vaccine is effective in keeping COVID cases milder when they do occur. He added, “We’ve had children from our area who have been in the ICU from COVID-19.”

He said the hospital’s COVID Resource Center will be prepared to vaccinate everyone who is eligible, including the youngest Vermonters, by the middle to the end of this week. The clinic is open from 8 a.m. to noon Monday through Friday on a first-come basis; appointments are not taken. He did not anticipate wait times, because the number of young kids now eligible for vaccinations is relative small.

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Parents should call their pediatricians to ask about vaccination availability, as well.

The American Academy of Pediatrics Vermont Chapter and the American Academy of Family Physicians Vermont Chapter on Monday recommended COVID-19 vaccination of all eligible children, regardless of underlying health status or prior COVID-19 infection.

“Child health professionals have been vaccinating children and adolescents over 5 years of age for many months now. Our vaccinated patients have been well-protected from severe COVID-19 disease, and we are eager to offer this same protection to younger children” said Dr. Rebecca Bell, president of AAPVT.

“Families of young children have been waiting a long time for this opportunity,” said Dr. Katie Marvin, president of VTAFP.

Both the Pfizer BioNTech and Moderna vaccines have been authorized for use. Providers will begin receiving the vaccines this week, but will have their own plans for administering them, so parents and caregivers should expect to hear from their child’s pediatrician when they are ready to begin vaccinations, the Health Department said. Families enrolled in WIC might also be able to get vaccinated through their local WIC office.

Information on the vaccines, clinics and more can be found at healthvermont.gov/KidsVaccine.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is authorized to be given to children age 6 months through 4 years in two doses that are three weeks apart, followed by a third dose at least two months later. The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine is authorized to be given to children 6 months through 5 years in two doses four weeks apart. The vaccination is based on age, not size or weight of the child.

The Health Department said the Pfizer doses are one-tenth the dosage given to adults, while the Moderna doses are one-fourth the dosage. The vaccines were found to be safe, with side effects typically mild and temporary.

The CDC also recommends booster shots for everyone 5 years and older, if eligible.

Children with underlying health issues are more likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19. Those conditions include asthma or chronic lung disease, diabetes, obesity and sickle cell disease.

On Monday, Bennington County was considered at “medium” risk for COVID, according to the CDC. Windham County risk was “low.”


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