Health leaders urge parents get children vaccinated against COVID-19 in South Carolina

DHEC officials say they are excited to work with vaccine providers to ensure access for ages 5-11 throughout South Carolina.
Published: Nov. 3, 2021 at 12:14 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 5, 2021 at 3:49 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTV) - South Carolina health leaders are urging parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19, emphasizing that it will “allow our children to safely attend school and focus on bettering themselves in the classroom.”

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is supporting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11.

DHEC officials say they are excited to work with vaccine providers to ensure access for ages 5-11 throughout South Carolina.

Parents can start getting their children in this age group vaccinated now.

“Approval of the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5-11 is a major step forward for South Carolina and the rest of our nation in our fight against COVID-19,” said Dr. Edward Simmer, DHEC Director. “We want people to know that a great deal of research and analysis went into the approval of the vaccine for this age group. This research has shown that the vaccine is safe and effective in children ages 5 –11. The Food and Drug Administration and the CDC would not have signed off on using this vaccine with this age group without this research, and the same goes for DHEC. We are encouraged by this news and are excited to offer this vaccine to the 436,352 South Carolinian children in this age group.”

The call to action coming from the Palmetto state’s health agency took mother of three, Shannon Walton, no time to listen to.

”We greatly encourage parents to start the two-dose series for their children as soon as possible,” says DHEC’s assistant state epidemiologist Jane Kelly.

”Finally. Very excited we have been waiting for this day,” says Walton.

Like many parents, yesterday’s announcement caused Walton to breathe a sigh of relief. The two kids she has left to get vaccinated are equally as excited as she.

”Just that extra peace of mind is really what we’ve been waiting for as a family,” she says.

In anticipation of the approval, DHEC began developing its vaccine rollout plan for South Carolinians ages 5-11 in October.

At the same time, the federal government informed South Carolina it would receive 152,100 pediatric vaccine doses in the first week of availability.

Officials say they have already received more than 60,000 of these doses and expect to receive the rest of them Wednesday and Friday.

The state will continue to receive weekly shipments beginning next week.

Getting the shot is giving Walton peace of mind sending her kids into the classroom since fully vaccinated students do not have to quarantine.

”We want them in school. We want them learning from their teachers, so this allows that to happen on a consistent basis,” she explains.

The benefit of being in the classroom is a big one, but the vaccines come with some fun benefits for this family too. The ones they have been waiting for since the pandemic brought a lot of fun family things to a grinding halt.

”Our kids have been asking when we’re going to take them on a vacation and now that they are ready to be vaccinated, we can start looking at that as a viable option,” she says.

But beyond school and travel, Walton says these vaccines take a big worry off her parental plate instead of fretting her kids could be hospitalized or die from COVID, she can now get back to worrying about normal kid things.

”Now I have to worry about are they going to fall off their scooter and scrape their knee or maybe they came home from school and had a bad day so how can I comfort them from that,” she says. “So to take one ball that I’m currently juggling out of the air is a major help for me as a parent.”

The federal government has enough doses for all 28 million children in this age group, so a phased rollout will not be necessary like it was for adult vaccines last winter.

Pediatric vaccinations are being distributed this week to more than 250 vaccine providers in South Carolina including many pediatricians and family practice providers.

Officials are also distributing to many but not all, hospital systems that may further distribute within their networks, DHEC health departments, federally qualified health centers, rural health clinics, provider offices, and mobile vaccine vendors, among others.

Health leaders advise that it is best to contact your provider for availability prior to visiting a site as providers are working to update and train their staff on the final CDC recommendations for pediatric vaccines.

“Just like a measles or polio shot, the COVID-19 vaccine will stave off this deadly virus and allow our children to safely attend school and focus on bettering themselves in the classroom,” Simmer added. “We strongly urge parents to learn more about this vaccine and protect their children by taking advantage of this life-saving opportunity.”

COVID-19 vaccinations are available for ages 5 and up. Visit DHEC COVID-19 webpage for more information, the locator page to find a nearby place to get vaccinated, or call the Vaccine Information Line at 1-866-365-8110.

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