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Ohio County Ready To Vaccinate Youngest Kids Against COVID-19

photo by: File photo

Elm Grove Elementary student Dalton Wiethe squeezes a stress ball as nurse Leah Minch administers a COVID-19 vaccine in November, after the vaccine was approved for children. Ohio County, beginning today, will offer the vaccine to children as young as 6 months old after federal regulators granted approval.

WHEELING – Children as young as six months can be vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as today, which local health officials say comes at the right time to protect kids over the summer without crowding out back-to-school vaccinations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six months over the weekend. The Ohio County Health Department will integrate the new pediatric vaccines into their normal, daily operations from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday, with the first shots available today. Calling ahead is not required as walk-ins are welcome.

Health Administrator Howard Gamble said he was glad to see the vaccines made available this far in advance of the back-to-school vaccines that will be required for students, some of which may be attending their first years of classes.

“If we can launch it at this time of year, it might be easier to get kids in with their parents’ schedules, but if we can get them in (now) and vaccinated, it won’t conflict with the back-to-school vaccinations,” Gamble said Wednesday. “It’s where we needed to be eventually, I’m glad we’re rolling these out.”

The Pfizer brand of vaccine requires a series of three doses to take full effect, while the Moderna brand takes two. Gamble said, however, that unlike the vaccine doses first administered to adults when they were first released – which had a tight, 21-day window for a second dose – the window of opportunity for follow-up doses is much wider for the pediatric vaccine.

“The vaccines that are rolling out now, we’re giving them a little (more leeway), where the window can be anywhere from three weeks to eight weeks,” he said. “It allows a little more flexibility with parents’ schedules, we’re not rigid that they have to be here for these clinics, where we need to have the temporary clinical or nursing staff.

“We’re going to be able to get these vaccines in over the summer and the fall on a more relaxed schedule, but we need to keep that in mind – after the one dose, with Moderna there’s a (second), and with Pfizer there’s three.”

Additionally, Gamble said, parents or legal guardians are required to be present to administer the vaccine. He advises that they be prepared to help the young children get their shots after registering them. Side effects of the vaccine, as with those made for older patients, include soreness and a possibly elevated temperature.

Gamble expects that the health department will be able to meet the demand for pediatric vaccine with the staff on hand over the summer, but added that later in the fall, they may need to shift to a day-by-day clinic schedule for mass vaccination against certain things.

“We’re probably going to continue this way for the rest of the summer to meet this existing need, but also this new one. At some point in the late fall, we may need to go back to our more routine clinical schedule, where we have clinics one day a week for specific things,” he said.

Vaccinations will be given at the Ohio County Health Department, located at 1500 Chapline Street in Wheeling. They can also be reached at 304-234-3682.

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