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Little kids (at least some) line up for COVID shots

Randi B. Hagi

The Central Shenandoah Health District has been offering the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to children ages five to 11 since last Thursday -- and health officials are pleased with how many parents are signing their kids up. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.

[ambient sound at CVS]

NURSE ERIN PARISH-GIBSON: How do you usually do with shots?

SILAS: I dunno.

AILI: You did okay with the flu shot last year.

PARISH-GIBSON: Good! You're not gonna like, jump up and run screaming towards the door?

SILAS: Um, yes. Probably not. [laughter]

Credit Randi B. Hagi
Erin Parish-Gibson swabs the site of Silas's injection just after the shot.

I tagged along with Rockingham County resident Aili Huber and her children Silas and Petra as they got their COVID vaccines at a CVS this week. The kids looked a little nervous going to sit in that chair next to the nurse, but it was over quickly.

PARISH-GIBSON: There we go.

SILAS: Okay!

PARISH-GIBSON: Anti-climatic. You are welcome to a sticker or a lollipop.

SILAS: Mm, okay!

For once, 11-year-old Silas was actually looking forward to getting a shot.

SILAS:  Because it was for COVID, which is a global pandemic, which I really want to end because it's really annoying.

Huber said they've been doing outdoor playdates to be COVID-safe, and are looking forward to seeing friends indoors as the weather cools.

AILI: Well, I want this whole thing to be over sooner.

SILAS: Yeah!

Credit Randi B. Hagi
From left: Petra, Aili, and Silas Huber.

AILI: But also, you know, I have a fair amount of education but it certainly is not medical, so I talked with the doctors and nurses and epidemiologists that are my friends and family, and I said, "what should we do? What are you doing?" And every single one of them said "get yourself vaccinated, get the kids vaccinated as soon as you can." We are really low risk, because our family homeschools and we're all pretty healthy, but we also know that it's important to protect our community through vaccines. So that was a huge piece of it.

The Central Shenandoah Health District is offering their own vaccination clinics and partnering with schools and pharmacies to get the vaccines to families who want them.

JORDI SHELTON: Yesterday at an elementary school in Lexington, we distributed 140 vaccines in like an hour and a half … We're working with the individual school systems, and they're doing a great job communicating with the parents and families, so we're really grateful for that partnership, too.

Jordi Shelton, communications specialist for the health district, said the response from families has exceeded health officials' expectations in this first week.

SHELTON: We were so pleased, like the slots were filling up within the first day. Parents and families were really jumping on the opportunity to vaccinate their children. So we're really happy to see that and we hope that that continues in the coming weeks, especially as we get closer to the winter holidays, and people are going to be traveling and gathering together.

Credit Kirsten Beachy
From left: Sallie and Irene Beachy Alderfer.

Kirsten Beachy, mother of twins Irene and Sallie, said her daughters could get vaccinated at their elementary school in Rockingham County next week -- but she went ahead and held on to her appointment for Thursday at a nearby CVS.

KIRSTEN BEACHY: As soon as I realized they were now available I went ahead and made appointments, and I didn't cancel them either, even though the vaccination at the school would be maybe more convenient, because I just don't want to wait another week.

She said it wasn't so much a matter of deciding to get the kids vaccinated.

BEACHY: I've just been waiting for it, I think, ever since we knew that there was a vaccine that was viable and effective, I've just been waiting and watching for a dosage that is appropriate and tested and right for children. I've been feeling a little impatient, for sure, and I'm glad that the day has finally come … I realize, in their age group -- they're both seven years old -- the risk of serious infection is fairly low.

However, one of her daughters has Down Syndrome, which the CDC says can increase the risk of severe illness from COVID. As soon as they're a fully vaccinated family, they have plans to start swimming lessons, visit family, and do some sight-seeing.

BEACHY: Christmas tours at Brethren Mennonite Heritage Center, and at the Frontier Culture Museum, and I've also thought of things like, last year during virtual school, Sallie became kind of obsessed with George Washington's house …  we have toured Mount Vernon virtually a dozen times.

Thanks to the vaccine, Sallie and Irene will get to see Mount Vernon -- cherry blossoms and all -- in person this spring.

Randi B. Hagi first joined the WMRA team in 2019 as a freelance reporter. Her writing and photography have been featured in The Harrisonburg Citizen, where she previously served as the assistant editor; as well as The Mennonite; Mennonite World Review; and Eastern Mennonite University's Crossroads magazine.