By Jessie Wagoner
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) approved administering the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to children ages five to 11 on Nov. 3. Since that time, McPherson county children have been rolling up their sleeves and getting the vaccine.
Jessica Wexler-Soubiaiga says waiting for her daughter, Ainsley Wexler, 9, to be eligible for the vaccine has been a challenge. Now with one dose complete, Ainsley will be fully vaccinated by mid-December.
Wexler-Soubiaiga has Crohn’s Disease and must take an immunosuppressant medication, which classifies her as a high-risk for serious complications if she were to contract COVID-19. The family has been diligent with following precautions, including social distancing and mask wearing since the beginning of the pandemic.
“My husband was eligible for the vaccine early on because he is employed at Pfizer and is considered an essential worker,” Wexler-Soubiaiga said. “I got the first dose in March, our 12-year-old was vaccinated in August when she turned 12 and now Ainsley will be fully vaccinated soon.”
While waiting to be vaccinated, Ainsley has participated in school virtually. She will complete the school year virtually but the family plans for her to attend in-person next school year. The vaccine will allow her to rejoin the swim team.
“Once she is fully vaccinated I will let her get back on the swim team,” Wexler-Soubiaiga said. “In January, she will start back. She has still been participating in horseback riding at Reigns of Hope in Hutchinson because they have been great about following precautions.”
Having Ainsley vaccinated means the family will soon get to take a trip to see their relatives in Georgia. Wexler-Soubiaiga is currently pregnant, expecting to give birth by the end of this month. Since the baby will have some antibodies of protection from her for a few months after birth, the family plans to use that window of time to travel and reconnect with family members they haven’t been able to see since the beginning of the pandemic.
“Ainsley was the last member of our family to be vaccinated,” Wexler-Soubiaiga said. “She is the youngest so all of my other nieces and nephews have already been vaccinated.”
Alec and Desmond Burt, seven-year-old twins from McPherson rolled up their sleeves and were vaccinated late last week. Both boys have severe asthma and regularly get severe respiratory infections. Their mom, Jamie Burt says she feels a sense of relief knowing they are on the path to full vaccination.
“I have been terribly worried they would get COVID-19 and have serious complications,” Burt said. “Both boys have been hospitalized multiple times in their life for respiratory illnesses. Alec was even on a ventilator before. I don’t think they would do well if they contracted COVID, so this is a relief for me.”
Alec didn’t feel like talking about his vaccine experience but Desmond said the shot was “no big deal” and he liked getting a sticker when it was done. He was also hopeful that he wouldn’t have to wash his hands as much now that he was vaccinated but his mom quickly confirmed that handwashing would continue.
“That’s how you don’t get COVID,” Desmond said. “You wash your hands a lot and wear your mask and don’t touch everybody.”
As soon as the FDA and CDC made their recommendation, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly advised Kansas would adopt their recommendations.
“With this new development, the tools we need to keep kids safe and in school – and finally return to normal – are more accessible than ever,” Governor Kelly said. “We’ve been preparing for this announcement for months – and we stand ready to distribute this vaccine quickly and efficiently to every Kansas community. The vaccine is safe, effective and free – and I encourage all Kansas parents to get their kids aged five and older vaccinated as soon as possible.”
This vaccine dose was designed for children and underwent additional clinical trials specifically for people ages five-11 to determine that the vaccine was safe, effective and appropriately dosed to minimize any possible side effects.
The Pfizer vaccine formulation has already been administered more than 380 million times in the United States since it was first authorized in December 2020 and continues to prove effective while undergoing intensive safety monitoring.
“While we have seen lower rates of COVID infections in children as compared to adults, the Delta variant brought the levels of infections in kids to record highs. This important development will help keep children safe and stop the spread of COVID-19,” Lee Norman, M.D., Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment said. “These vaccines have been proven to prevent COVID-19 infection, severe illness, hospitalization, and death, and are important to get even if your child has already had COVID. But don’t just take my word for it – talk to your local doctor, get all the facts, and make the best choice to protect your family. Vaccination is the key to beating this pandemic.”
All 5 to 11-year-old children can now receive their Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine from a large network of vaccine providers across Kansas, including doctor’s offices, retail pharmacies, local health departments, and clinics. The McPherson County Health Department is currently scheduling appointments for vaccinations.
“COVID-19 Pfizer vaccination for the age group five-11 has been authorized,” Shalei Shea, with the McPherson County Health Department said. “MCHD will begin making appointments now for the following weeks. The booster dose of Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson and Johnson COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized as well. You may call MCHD at 620-241-1753, your health care provider or pharmacy for an appointment.”