“We were the first ones to get it” — COVID-19 vaccinations for children begin in Philly

Cyndi Walker, a Philadelphia health department nurse, administers a pediatric COVID-19 shot to a girl Thursday, Nov. 4, at Waterview Recreation Center in East Germantown.
PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Parents and nurses cheered and clapped Thursday morning as young children were vaccinated against the coronavirus at Waterview Recreation Center in East Germantown.

Adults used stuffed animals to walk the kids through the process before a nurse pulled out the needle. After getting jabbed, the children received lollipops and stickers.

“We were the first ones to get it,” said Jacob, 5, as he emerged triumphantly from the basketball gym.

Young children from around the Philadelphia region began receiving the shot as early as Wednesday after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the use of a specially-designed Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.

The pediatric dose includes about a third of the active ingredient given to adults and teenagers who received Pfizer, and it is administered with a smaller needle.

Federal officials said the inoculation was shown to be 91% effective for children in clinical trials and side effects were short-lived and similar to those experienced by adults.

Waterview Recreation Center hosted the first city-run COVID-19 vaccine clinic for children Thursday, accepting walk-ins and appointments. At least 10 pharmacies and health centers in Philadelphia are also offering the pediatric shot, according to vaccines.gov.

“It’s been actually going really well,” said Cydni Walker, a health department nurse who was administering vaccines at Waterview.

“We’ve had a few that are a little scared of vaccines, but we have a little teddy bear named Tim,” she added. “We show them exactly what’s gonna happen with the needle.”

A child and caregiver wait after receiving a COVID-19 vaccine Thursday, Nov. 4, at Waterview Recreation Center in East Germantown.PHOTO: Jack Tomczuk

Philadelphia Health Commissioner Cheryl Bettigole said the city has ordered more than 20,000 pediatric shots for its initial shipment, with more expected in the coming days.

Pennsylvania officials expect to receive 414,000 doses by the end of the week, and the CDC said distribution will ramp up next week.

“We know that for the first few days it may be frustrating to find (a) pediatric vaccine,” Bettigole told reporters Wednesday. “I wish that wasn’t just the way it is right now, but we can’t control where the vaccine ships or how quickly it ships.”

To find sites administering the pediatric vaccine, which like the other COVID-19 shots is free, go to www.vaccines.gov or www.phila.gov/vaccine.

In some cases, pediatricians and health centers are reaching out to parents to schedule appointments for children.

Metro is one of more than 20 news organizations producing Broke in Philly, a collaborative reporting project on economic mobility. Read more at brokeinphilly.org or follow on Twitter at @BrokeInPhilly.