Vaccinations begin for tots

  • Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald Maverick Kuwahara, 4, puts his head on his mother, Brittini Kuwahara, Thursday after getting a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at KTA Super Stores Puainako.

The rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations for keiki 6 months old through age 4 have officially begun statewide.

On Thursday afternoon, Brittini Kuwahara brought her son, Maverick, to KTA Super Stores Puainako to be vaccinated.

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Although tears were abundant, Maverick, 4, quickly recovered from the quick poke thanks to a lollipop and activity book from Keiki Heroes.

“It feels so good, like finally we’re able to get him vaccinated,” Brittini Kuwahara said. “Every time he would get sick, I would worry, so it feels nice to not have that on my mind.”

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week approved the use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for children under 5.

KTA is providing infant doses of the Moderna vaccine to children ages 3 to 5, and Bay Clinic will start administering vaccines to keiki 6 months old to age 4 beginning next week.

Many pediatricians also are offering vaccinations for their patients in those age ranges.

“Many pediatrician offices are only vaccinating current patients, so everyone should check in with their pediatrician first,” said Brooks Baehr, spokesman for the state Department of Health. “If they aren’t, they may have a recommendation or we have a list available online of all public providers.”

About 28% of the Big Island’s population of kids 5 to 11 have completed a primary vaccination series, and 32% have had at least one dose.

“We know in Hawaii we have done a much better job at embracing COVID vaccines,” Baehr said. “We’ve vaccinated about 40% of the 5-11 population statewide. That’s well above the national average. With this age group (6 months to age 4) we hope to be above the national average, so we can protect as many young people as we can.”

There are approximately 10,800 keiki ages 6 months to 4 years old that are eligible to be vaccinated in Hawaii County.

While many parents are ready to vaccinate their youngest children, others may have hesitation.

“We understand parents of really young children will have questions, and that’s understandable,” Baehr said. “We’re delighted to know that federal regulators and medical experts have concluded that vaccines are safe and effective. We hope parents look to medical providers for data and recommendations so our population can remain healthy.”

The state currently has 27,500 infant doses of Pfizer and Moderna that are ready for immediate distribution in more than 100 locations around Hawaii.

“This timing is great, because we still have a lot of COVID out there. There were 15 deaths announced in one week’s time,” Baehr said. “After administering more than 3 million doses across the state, the overwhelming conclusion is that these are tremendously safe.”

Parents and guardians can find a map of all public vaccination sites, which include West Hawaii Community Health Center, KTA Super Stores around the island, Walmart, Kaiser Permanente in Kona, Waimea and Hilo and the Hamakua Kohala Health Center in Honokaa and Waimea, among many others, at https://hawaiicovid19.com/vaccine/.

The website also lists providers that are still offering vaccinations for those ages 5-11, 12-17, and 18 and older.

Email Kelsey Walling at kwalling@hawaiitribune-herald.com

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