Children ages 5-11 begin receiving Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in Central California

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A COVID-19 vaccine is now available for younger children.

Hospitals, pharmacies, clinics, and doctors offices have begun administering Pfizer shots to children ages 5 to 11, and more locations will come online in the coming days.

Appointment slots on the state's MyTurn vaccination portal opened Thursday, but UCSF Fresno drive-thru clinic is already getting a head start.

"We didn't want parents who have been waiting for their kids to get vaccinated to wait any longer," said Dr. Kenny Banh of UCSF Fresno.

More than 60 school-aged children rolled up their sleeves at the vaccine clinic.

Elise Nimer, 9, got her first dose alongside her younger siblings who were nervous about the potential pain but believed it'll all be worth it in the end.

"I'm excited because we'll be able to do more stuff and I'm pretty sure it will only hurt for a little," said Nimer.

Health experts say getting the vaccine is safe and is a critical step towards ending the pandemic.

RELATED: Pediatric COVID vaccines: Full list of Central California locations offering Pfizer shots for kids

"I have some family members that have some medical issues, and so I told him that it would help protect them if he got vaccinated and also protect him from potentially getting COVID," said Leanne LeMon, who took her son Max to get vaccinated.

The Pfizer shot for kids is a smaller dose, one-third the amount adults get.

"It is emergency use authorized, it has been tested in a lot of kids and it should be very safe," said Dr. Banh. "Even safer than we see in some of the older age groups."

Side effects for kids are similar to teens and adults such as a sore arm, fever, and chills, according to health officials.

Dr. Banh says a common question he receives from parents is the connection between the COVID-19 vaccine and the inflammation of the heart muscle, myocarditis.

"There's a small association with the vaccine, but COVID itself causes a significantly higher rate of myocarditis and inflammatory symptoms. It's actually a higher risk of developing this if you are not vaccinated," he said.

The UCSF Vaccine Clinic is open 7 days a week. Parents planning on getting their younger children vaccinated are asked to bring identification that shows their birthdate. Children will need to get a second dose three weeks later.
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