Pittsburgh region gearing up to administer COVID-19 vaccines to children under age of 5

PITTSBURGH — Across the country, COVID-19 vaccines for children under the age of 5 will begin on Tuesday — signaling a huge milestone in the fight against the disease.

In the Pittsburgh region, Allegheny Health Network (AHN) will likely be the first provider to receive the shots, as doctors plan to take their first appointments on Thursday.

It has been two years since the first wave of vaccines was approved in the U.S. for individuals over the age of 16 and one year since the vaccine was approved for teens. Now, the Food and Drug Administration has finally expanded the emergency use of the drug, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention cleared the way this weekend for children as young as 6 months to get the vaccine.

  • AHN will begin administering the shots on Thursday.
  • Kids+, which has locations in Squirrel Hill, Pleasant Hills and Cranberry, says appointments can be made for next week.
  • UPMC is still waiting to receive its shipment and will notify patients as soon as the vaccine becomes available.

“Call your primary care provider,” said Dr. Joseph Aracri with Allegheny Health Network, who says scheduling an appointment for your child is as simple as making a call to your pediatrician.

“You may have to wait a day or two to get in on day one, but we’re not expecting too much of a rush. We should have enough product,” said Aracri.

Ultimately, experts say this is a huge milestone in fighting the spread of the virus. They estimate that, beginning today, more than 17 million kids now have access to the COVID-19 vaccine.

“This is the only group that was not able to receive a vaccine during the entire pandemic, so it’s exciting,” said Aracri.

Medical experts say the vaccine has been tested, shown minimal side effects, and is safe for children.

“This vaccine is significantly less (of) a viral load compared to the adult dose,” said Aracri.

Pfizer will offer a three-dose regimen to kids 6 months to 4 years old. Moderna will offer a two-dose regimen for infants 6 months to children 5 years of age. Experts urge parents who have concerns to talk with their providers.

“Some patients that want to wait — that’s fine,” said Aracri, noting that “it is safe” for patients who “want to get it right away” as well. He added, “Children can provide a good, robust immune response. You don’t need as much antigen to make that response.”

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