3 November (Reuters) – Gael Coreas, seven, bravely extended his left arm to receive his first COVID-19 shot at a health clinic in the nation’s capital on Wednesday, wincing briefly as cameras flashed to capture the moment.
Coreas was among the first group of young children to be immunised as the United States began administering the COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11, the latest age group to become eligible for the shots that protect recipients and those around them from the illness.
“We are very excited,” Coreas’ mother Alma Benavides, a 37-year-old small business owner, said at Mary Center’s in Washington. “We waited a long time and it’s very special for me.”
On Tuesday, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the Pfizer Inc(PFE.N)/BioNTech SE shot for broad use in that age group, four days after it was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Only a limited amount of the initial 15 million shots being distributed will be available on Wednesday. They are expected to be more widely accessible at pediatrician’s offices, children’s hospitals and pharmacies next week.
Maria Stout brought her daughters Celeste, 9, and Victoria, 11, to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego for their first COVID-19 shots on Wednesday morning, after a friend told her the hospital’s website had open appointments.
Stout passed along the tip to other parents, some of whom were unable to book appointments, “so it was very fortunate that my friend shared that information with me early,” she said.
The big national pharmacy chains, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA.O), CVS Health (CVS.N) and Rite Aid (RAD.N) are among those offering appointments for this weekend.
“We have had significant demand and scheduling already,” CVS Chief Executive Karen Lynch said in an interview on Wednesday. CVS expects to have 2,500 stores administering pediatric shots beginning this weekend.
While about 58% of Americans are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, some 28 million children under 12 have not been eligible until now.
The 10-microgram shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine authorized for school-age kids – a third the strength given to adolescents and adults – offers protection from the Delta variant of the virus that has led to thousands of pediatric hospitalizations.