Connecticut Hospital Gave COVID Vaccine to 7 Kids Minutes After CDC Gave Go-Ahead

A hospital in Connecticut administered COVID-19 vaccinations to seven children Tuesday mere minutes after the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) signed off on kid-size doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the Associated Press reported.

Eric Arlia, senior pharmacy director for Hartford HealthCare in Connecticut, said that the vaccinated kids, most of whom were children of Hartford Hospital staff, were waiting on standby for the CDC to announce its approval.

"It feels like another important step on the journey to being able to vaccinate as many people as we can and put the pandemic to an end,'' Arlia said.

An additional three children were vaccinated at Hartford Hospital early Wednesday. Footage from local media showed one girl squeezing her eyes shut as she was injected, a little boy who barely flinching and other kids applauding as they waited to get the shot, AP reported.

The smaller doses of Pfizer's vaccine for kids were pushed through their two final checkpoints Tuesday after CDC advisers gave their recommendation and CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky authorized the shots.

The approval marks a major breakthrough in America's vaccination campaign as kids ages 5 to 11 will be able to begin getting inoculated more than 18 months into a deadly and disruptive pandemic.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Kids Get Vaccinated After CDC Approval
A hospital in Connecticut administered COVID-19 vaccinations to seven children Tuesday mere minutes after the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on kid-sized doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Above, Leah Lefkove, 9, shows off her vaccination sticker just before being the first child to be vaccinated at the Viral Solutions vaccination and testing site in Decatur, Georgia, on the first day COVID-19 vaccinations were available for children from 5 to 12 on November 3, 2021. Ben Gray/AP Photo

At a Decatur, Georgia, pediatrician's office Wednesday, 10-year-old Mackenzie Olson took off her black leather jacket and rolled up her sleeve as her mother looked on.

"I see my friends but not the way I want to. I want to hug them, play games with them that we don't normally get to," and have a pillow fight with her best friend, Mackenzie said after getting her shot at the Children's Medical Group site.

With the federal government promising enough vaccine to protect the nation's 28 million kids in this age group, pediatricians' offices and hospitals began inoculating children, with schools, pharmacies and other locations planning to follow suit in the days ahead.

Brian Giglio, 40, of Alexandria, Virginia, brought in his 8-year-old son, Carter, for vaccination at Children's National Hospital in Washington, D.C. The boy has Type 1 diabetes that puts him at risk for complications if he were to become infected.

"Carter is the last in our house to get vaccinated and he was always the one that we had the most concern about,'' Giglio said. "And so today is like a hallway pass for us to begin living life again and we couldn't be more thankful to everybody that's been involved in this process to helping us feel that freedom that we feel today.''

Carter said he can't wait to leave masks behind once he's fully vaccinated, so he can smell the things he used to be able to smell without it.

"I'm ready to trash it," he said, though the CDC still recommends masks in schools and indoor public spaces where virus activity is high, even for the fully vaccinated.

Cate Zeigler-Amon, 10, arrived with her mom and was first in line early Wednesday for a drive-through vaccination at Viral Solutions in Atlanta. The girl bounced around the car, her body hanging halfway out the window in excitement before the shot, which she broadcast live on her computer during morning announcements at her elementary school.

Afterward, Cate said she was "very, very, very excited and very happy," looking forward to eating inside a restaurant, hugging her friends, and celebrating her birthday indoors next month "instead of having a freezing cold outside birthday party."

The vaccine—one-third the dose given to older children and adults and administered with kid-sized needles—requires two doses three weeks apart, plus two more weeks for full protection to kick in. That means children who get vaccinated before Thanksgiving will be covered by Christmas.

"The timing before winter holidays is very fortunate," said Dr. Jennifer Shu, whose Children's Medical Group office in Decatur, Georgia, began vaccinating first thing Wednesday. "This age group will be able to spend holidays with friends and family more safely than they have been able to since the start of the pandemic."

Thousands of pediatricians pre-ordered doses, and Pfizer began shipments soon after the Food and Drug Administration's decision Friday to authorize emergency use. Pfizer said it expects to make 19,000 shipments totaling about 11 million doses in the next several days, and that millions more will be available to order on a weekly basis.

Authorities said they expected a smooth rollout, unlike the chaos that plagued the national rollout of vaccines for adults nearly a year ago.

Walgreens planned to start kids' vaccinations at their pharmacies on Saturday and said parents could sign up starting Wednesday online or by calling 1-800-Walgreens. CVS was also accepting appointments online and by phone for vaccinations at select pharmacies starting Sunday.

Many locations planned mass vaccination events in coming days. And while many pediatricians' offices were expecting strong demand at least initially, almost two-thirds of parents recently polled by the Kaiser Family Foundation said they would either wait or not seek out the vaccines for their kids.

Hannah Hause, a Colorado mother of four children ages 2, 5, 7 and 8, is among those not in any rush. She's vaccinated but wants more time to see how the child vaccines play out and are studied in the larger childhood population.

"It's not studied long-term. It just makes me nervous because that's my whole world," she said of her children. "As long as I can wait, I will wait."

Walensky said she understood parents' fears but said "we've taken the time to get this right." She said clinical trials in children showed "no severe events" associated with the vaccine.

"The benefits of this vaccine so much outweigh the risks of COVID itself," Walensky told "CBS Mornings" on Wednesday.

Government authorities said pediatricians and family doctors, whom parents depend on to give routine childhood vaccinations, could help build trust.

Dr. Ada Stewart, a Black family physician in Columbia, South Carolina, works at a clinic for underserved patients that has been giving COVID-19 shots to grandparents, parents and teens and said she's ready to add younger children to the mix. She's seen the toll the virus has taken on them—not just in family illness and death but with school disruptions, slipping grades and mental strain.

School closures throughout the pandemic have disproportionately burdened children of color, widening academic gaps and worsening mental health, according to data presented Tuesday to CDC advisers. That data showed more than 2,000 COVID-related school closures in just the first two months of the current school year. Advocates say getting school-aged kids vaccinated will reduce those disruptions.

But Stewart thinks demand for kids' shots will be mixed.

"Because many of my patients are Black, Indigenous and people of color, I've seen the full spectrum,'' from parents eager to get their children vaccinated to those who are more hesitant "because of a history of mistrust in the medical community,'' said Stewart, past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians.

Her message to both is the same: "Vaccines work, they're safe, they're effective and they save lives,'' she said. "The more individuals that we can get vaccinated including our children, the sooner we will be able to get out of this pandemic.''

Kids' COVID Vaccine
The U.S. enters a new phase Wednesday in its COVID-19 vaccination campaign, with shots now available to millions of elementary-age children in what health officials hailed as a major breakthrough after more than 18 months of illness, hospitalizations, deaths and disrupted education. Above, a child's dose of the vaccine is shown on November 3, 2021, at Children's National Hospital in Washington. Carolyn Kaster/AP Photo