Efforts to get children ages 5 to 11 vaccinated against COVID-19 are in high gear at several venues around Missoula, with appointments through both hospitals, the MCPS, and other facilities, including the University of Montana Pharmacy.

KGVO spoke with Dr. Lauren Wilson, Pediatric Hospitalist at Community Children’s, and also Vice President of the Montana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics about the new Pfizer vaccine that will be available starting next week.

“As a pediatrician, I deal with vaccines a lot, and I am terribly excited to have this out because in my practice I’ve seen kids getting sick with COVID and kids having long term effects from COVID,” said Dr. Wilson. “In my mind, it's a great opportunity to get kids protected. But I also do understand when people have questions and concerns because it's new to them. There's a lot of information out there from different sources. Some of them are good trusted sources, some of them less so and it can be confusing.”

Dr. Wilson described the Pfizer vaccine that will be available to children ages 5 to 11.

“The vaccine for children who are five to 11 is actually 1/3 of the dose of the adult vaccine,” she said. “So we're seeing in the trials when they track the sort of side effects that people have, we're seeing as side effects some arm soreness, but we're seeing less of the fever and a little bit less of the other symptoms like chills or fatigue than we thought with the adult dose.”

Dr. Wilson addressed the fact that young children are naturally more resistant to the COVID virus, but noted that more children are now being affected as time goes by.

“Most of the time when a child gets sick, it's a mild illness, but that's not always true,” she said. “We've seen more than 700 children die of COVID in the U.S. since the pandemic started, and we've seen children in this age group as well who die. But that's not the only thing. We have a lot of children who have chronic illness as a result, both long COVID and sometimes effects from the COVID virus itself on the heart. Those are things that I've seen in my own clinical practice and I really want to avoid that for my kids. There's no reason that they would have to get that if there's an effective vaccine out there.”

Dr. Wilson said there will be several opportunities to get children vaccinated starting on Monday, and that there has been a great deal of interest in the vaccinations.

“There will be pediatric providers at the public clinics, at the Community Children's vaccine clinic and the public school clinics, so if parents just want to sit down and talk with a doctor there will be doctors at those clinics where they could sit down and have a conversation,” she said.

Dr. Wilson said the MCPS district will be communicating with each parent via email with more information.

“It's by appointment,” she said. “If you have a kid in Missoula County Public Schools, you get an email and you're allowed to schedule through that. In addition, Granite Pharmacy has information on their web page, and they were going to let people schedule through the email first. Also, Granite Pharmacy has the ability to make appointments on that website as well.”

The University of Montana Curry Health Center is now providing the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to the public. An affiliation with UM is not required. Appointments are walk-in only and are available 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

UM pharmacists and pharmacy students will administer the vaccine. The Health Services Pharmacy, operated by UM’s Skaggs School of Pharmacy, is located inside the Curry Health Center at 634 Eddy Ave. in Missoula.

More information for parents and caregivers can be found here.

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