GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — According to North Carolina Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen, more than 24,000 kids ages 5 to 11 in North Carolina have gotten the first dose of the Pfizer pediatric vaccine so far.
State health leaders hope that demand will grow heading into the winter and holiday season, they’re urging parents to talk to a pediatrician if they have any concerns and use the tools available to protect their kids.
On Wednesday, the Gaston County Health Department opened appointments to the new age group. A handful of families were out to get their kids the shots, including the Formicas.
At just 8 years old, Vincent Formica has learned a lot about COVID-19 and the vaccine.
“If I ever get COVID, it would probably like reflect or like kill the COVID symptoms,” he said minutes after getting the first dose of the Pfizer kids vaccine.
His family has had a few run-ins with the virus, and he’s had to quarantine from school.
“The second we get un-quarantined we love school because we go back to get to see our teachers and friends,” he said.
That’s part of the reason he and his dad didn’t hesitate when it came time to get the shot.
“Especially after having it and realizing the bad side of it, I didn’t want him to go through the same thing,” Chuck Formica said.
Local and state officials hoping other families will do the same for their kids and soon -- so they’re fully protected by Christmas.
“Getting on airplanes and being in airports and being with crowds is going to be a lot more comfortable if everyone is fully vaccinated,” Brittain Kenney, the Assistant Health Director in Gaston County said.
Cohen said she’s relieved her two daughters got their shots, sharing their story in a new PSA that will run throughout the state.
She said even though kids are less likely to have a severe or deadly case of COVID-19, it’s still important to use all the tools available to keep them safe. Kids are susceptible to long COVID-19 symptoms and MIS-C.
“We all, for example, use car seats or seatbelts with our kids, even though the risk of dying in a car accident is pretty rare for a kid, which is great. We want to do everything we can as parents to protect our kids,” she said. “I see the vaccine, because it is safe, as one of those really effective tools to protect our kids.”
Cohen said the state will have plenty of supplies to get every kid in the age group vaccinated and it is very accessible. The state is opening nine vaccine centers in historically underserved areas across the state.
The Gaston County Health Department clinic for kids vaccines is open from 1 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. and appointments are preferred.