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Kids in Vermont can get a COVID shot starting today. Here’s what to expect from the rollout.

Julia Breguet, 8, wears a sticker on her shirt after receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11 at a state-run site in Cranston, R.I., Thursday, Nov. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
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AP
Beginning this week, Vermonters ages 5 to 11 can get their first COVID shot.

Over the next few months, dozens of schools, malls and medical centers across the state will host COVID vaccine clinics for kids ages 5 and up, through the Vermont Health Department. That’s after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the green light to the kid-sized Pfizer vaccine this week.

While many state-run clinics already have the kids’ vaccine in hand, doctors’ offices and pharmacies have to wait a little longer. Many expect to offer doses by mid-November.

Do I need to make an appointment to get my kid a shot?

Unlike the recent pop-up vaccine clinics for adults and kids 12 and over, families are strongly encouraged to schedule appointments online or by phone with the state’s health department. “If you walk into a clinic without an appointment, you are unlikely to get a vaccine,” reads the health department website.

Scheduling appointments also helps clinics accommodate social distancing requirements.

“We're limited by our building envelope,” said Erika Gaudreau with Lamoille Health Partners, who’s helping coordinate a series of kids’ vaccine clinics in Morrisville.

“If we have 20 kids scheduled, and they all have to wait 15 minutes with their parents, we've now introduced a different risk,” she explained.

Can my kid get vaccinated at school?

Over the next two months, many schools are holding clinics sponsored by the health department, just like those for students 12 and older.

So far, these have gone well.

“Kids tend to be a lot less concerned when all their friends are doing it too,” said Dr. Ashley Miller, a pediatrician and owner of the South Royalton Health Center. “Parents often will tell me, ‘Wow, it’s always so hard to get them to do their shots, and you just did it in the school and they were fine?’ I’m like, ‘yeah, they were great.’”

Not every school district is hosting a vaccine clinic through the health department. A full list is available here.

How long do I have to wait to get a vaccine at my kid's doctors’ office?

While health department sites get priority access to the vaccine, pediatric and primary care practices have to wait until Nov. 10 to order kids’ doses. Those could arrive as early as Nov. 17, said Miller, from South Royalton Health Center.

She plans to hold evening vaccine clinics for her patients in the parking lot of the office, where it’s easier to social distance, and she’ll offer the vaccine to patients who already have an appointment scheduled.

But every office might not be able to offer the vaccine as soon as they receive it.

“We don’t have a perfect plan for what to do,” admits Dr. Joshua Kantrowitz, a pediatrician at St. Johnsbury Pediatrics. “Space is the issue. Simply because people have to wait 15 minutes after they get their vaccine and we have very limited rooms.”

He added that staffing shortages limit their ability to offer after-hour clinics.

For now, the practice is concentrating on supporting patients at local clinics run by the health department. Kantrowitz will be there to answer questions at a clinic this weekend, at a nearby mall.

“One of our providers is going to be there all day,” he said.

Where can I go for more questions about the kids' COVID vaccine?

Vermont’s chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics is holding a series of online discussions with physicians across the state about the kids COVID vaccine starting next week.

Public health experts are also encouraging families to contact their primary care provider with any questions.

That’s already happening, said Kantrowitz, of St. Johnsbury Pediatrics.

"I’d say half the day, hand on the doorknob as I’m leaving the room, families say, ‘Hey what about the COVID vaccine? What do you think?’”

He's happy to answer questions.

Lexi Krupp is a corps member for Report for America, a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and regions.

Have questions, comments or tips? Send us a message or get in touch with reporter Lexi Krupp @KruppLexi.

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