Children Health

Prisma Health begins giving COVID vaccine to SC children

Lollipop in mouth and stuffed animal in hand, 8-year-old Avery Laney locked her eyes with her parents.

“I’m scared,” Avery told the nurse as she prepared to give Avery her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

Be brave, Avery’s father, Brian Laney, reminded her. In less than three seconds, the shot was done.

On Thursday, Avery became the first of 175 children to get the COVID-19 vaccine on the very first day Prisma Health gave shots for children ages 5-11 at its Richland Hospital campus.

Before Prisma opened its walk-in clinic Thursday afternoon, families were lined up.

One child celebrated his fifth birthday by getting the vaccine. Others waited their turn patiently, seeking distractions when it was their turn. They walked away with stickers and their pick of a toy and other prizes.

All will be eligible for their second dose on Thanksgiving.

“It’s a big relief. They’re sort of that lingering worry about Avery getting sick, missing school, being around grandparents, and so it’s a big relief to be protected in that way,” said Avery’s mom, Amber Laney, of Chapin. “We’re kind of excited to be part of the next phase of fighting this disease.”

Only recently were children ages 5-11 authorized to get the vaccine.

Prisma pediatrician Katie Stephenson said as more children get the doses it should help lower the number of sick.

“Obviously there were lots of kids and trials that they did to make sure this vaccine was safe,” Stephenson said. “So we really expect, being able to vaccinate younger kids, that we’re going to see numbers of COVID go down because no matter how hard we try, kids are still going to be susceptible and then they’re going to spread it to family members and that type of thing.”

Stephenson urged families not to wait to get the vaccine, citing the clinical trials with more than 3,000 children which showed the side effects were minor, such as a sore arm, slight fever and some chills.

“I think families want their kids to be able to stay at school,” Stephenson said. “We want to get back to some sort of normalcy and we also know that we’ve got winter coming up so we’ve got other viruses and things that that tend to be battling and we don’t want to get COVID out of the mix.”

Margie Roldan, of Columbia, brought her children, Kyleigh Abreu and Luis Abreu, ages 10 and 9, respectively, to the clinic.

Her 13 year old already is vaccinated.

Roldan said it was important for her and her children to get vaccinated because her 44-year-old cousin died from COVID-19 before vaccines were made available.

“I wanted the vaccine because I just saw that so many people were getting COVID and dying, so I didn’t want that to happen to me and my siblings,” said Kyleigh, who has asthma.

Roldan said she’s been strict about her children wearing masks, and she has restricted their activities, including vacations, playing basketball or doing gymnastics. Out of fear of contracting the virus, she had them home schooled.

When the children are fully vaccinated, Roldan already has some plans in mind.

“We’ll probably go on vacation, because we love cruises,” she said.

To find a pharmacy or vaccination site where to people can get the COVID-19 shot, people can visit vaxlocator.dhec.sc.gov.

For Avery, she was a little frightened before the shot, thinking it would hurt.

It ended up not being that bad, she said.

“It was like one of my grandma’s pinches,” Avery said.

Joseph Bustos is a state government and politics reporter at The State. He a Northwestern University graduate and previously worked in Illinois covering government and politics. He has won reporting awards in both Illinois and Missouri. He moved to South Carolina in November 2019.
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