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COVID vaccine rollout begins for younger Connecticut children

Children as young as 6 months old are now eligible to get their Pfizer or Moderna shots.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut started getting shipments this week of thousands of COVID-19 vaccines for a newly eligible age group, children from 6 months old to 5 years old.

This comes after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave the final approval to do so over the weekend. There are two brands designated for this age group, Pfizer and Moderna. 

Now, pediatricians, local hospitals, health departments, and pharmacies in Connecticut are put up to the task of vaccinating these children.

"Yes, we absolutely have had interest," said Dr. Lucia Benzoni, a Pediatrician with Hartford HealthCare, who works at a practice in Litchfield

Dr. Benzoni has already received messages from parents in her inbox, eager to get their children their shots.

"I’ve had parents during well checks, 'You let me know as soon as it's in, we'll be the first in line,'" Dr. Benzoni said.

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She and Hartford HealthCare plan to give out Pfizer vaccines to the new age group by the first week of July. She's been vaccinating kids for decades and believes pediatricians are the best for the job.

"That's actually the best because number one, we have a relationship with our patients, and number two, we would handle the side effects so, we should be the one administering it," Dr. Benzoni said. 

However, she has seen some hesitation from parents as well. And while it is their decision, she usually explains to them how the benefits outweigh the costs in this scenario.

"Actually in children, the side effects are less than they are in adults. You still get the local redness, the swelling, you might have a low-grade fever, but a fever above 104 is extremely rare in all the studies," Dr. Benzoni.

Plus, if they get it with their other 6-month vaccinations, Dr. Benzoni said they likely won't notice a major difference in side effects between this vaccine and others. 

The Pfizer shot is designated for children who are ranging in age from six months to 4 years old. The dose is one-tenth the strength of their adult dose, and it requires three shots. Moderna's latest vaccine for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers is two shots, each a quarter of their adult dose.

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Now this is all coming right at the start of summer and a lot of parents we spoke with have had some mixed feelings about vaccinating their kids that young, but many still plan to go ahead with it.

"At first I was like, 'eh, no.' But then I thought about it and I was like, 'I'm fully vaccinated, why not get them vaccinated,'" said Sharins DeCordova of Wethersfield.

She has two little ones and hopes to protect them for daycare and school. The schools have already reached out to her, seeing which parents are interested. 

"If you do your research and your knowledge, you’ll be fine with it just don’t be scared," DeCordova said.

Others never hesitated. 

“As soon as they were eligible, they got the vaccination," said Maleka Donaldson of West Hartford. Donaldson said her daughter, 12, wanted to get her vaccine on her birthday, and she was anxiously awaiting it. 

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So, the eligibility list expanding is a relief for parents like Donaldson. 

"The more people we can get vaccinated, the better for the community spread, to reduce community spread," Donaldson said. 

If you’re not comfortable, talk to your pediatrician.

“Talk to them about your fears. talk to them about your concerns. They’re the best source and we love to help children. That’s what we do," Dr. Benzoni said. 

The Connecticut Department of Public Health reports that the vaccines for this age group started arriving Monday, and providers will continue to deliver them this week. They are being shipped directly from the manufacturer. More than 14,000 doses of Moderna and more than 12,000 doses of Pfizer have been ordered so far.

To look for vaccines in your area, click here.

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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