DETROIT — Henry Ford Health System began COVID-19 vaccinations for children Thursday, marking a new milestone in the coronavirus pandemic.
For parents like Smitha and Michael Hahn of Bloomfield Hills, the occasion was one of excitement and relief. Their children Jack, 7, and Sonya, 5, were the first to receive the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Henry Ford Medical Center-Bloomfield Township. They will return for their second dose in the second week of December, ensuring they will be fully vaccinated for the holidays.
“We’ve been holed up for so long, trying to keep us and them away from bigger crowds, big events and indoor things for almost two years now,” said Smitha Hahn. “We’re excited to start to get back out there.”
I’d like for (my friends) to get their shot so we can play together and so we don’t have to wear masks in school anymore. — Jack Hahn, 7
After their vaccinations, Jack and Sonya flashed thumbs-up signs and showed off their colorful Band-Aids, Wiley Coyote for him and Garfield for her.
Jack and Sonya, who each wore plaid masks, said they hoped their classmates and friends would soon get their vaccination.
“I don’t want them to be sick,” Sonya said. Both look forward to reconnecting with their friends.
“I’d like for them to get their shot so we can play together and so we don’t have to wear masks in school anymore,” Jack said.
Also getting their first vaccines were Sofia and Alana Velandia, 9 and 7, respectively, of Waterford. Their mother, Isabel, stood at their side, holding their hands during the memorable moment.
Henry Ford is offering vaccinations for established Henry Ford patients ages 5 – 11 at its pediatric and family medicine clinics. Parents can make an appointment via their MyChart account or call their doctor’s office. They can make an appointment at any location that is most convenient, even though it may not be the location of their child’s doctor.
The start of vaccinations for children come as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising in Michigan. Dr. Mollie Blanchard-Brown, M.D., a pediatrician at the Bloomfield Township medical center who cares for the Hahn and Velandia children, said the vaccinations mark a turning point in the 20-month-old pandemic.
“This is a huge day for our children and for their families,” she said. “The pandemic has obviously changed the world for everyone, but certainly for kids it has thrown life completely on its head. They’ve had to go through virtual learning, repeat school closures, so this is a huge step in the right direction for them.”
Vaccination is really important in this patient population. They are still in contact with adults and they are big spreaders of the disease. It’s also incredibly important to keep them as safe as possible and to build up their immunity to the disease. — Dr. Mollie Blanchard-Brown, M.D.
She said she and her physician colleagues are thrilled to be able to immunize children for their safety.
“Vaccination is really important in this patient population,” she said. “They are still in contact with adults and they are big spreaders of the disease. It’s also incredibly important to keep them as safe as possible and to build up their immunity to the disease.”
While she acknowledged parents may be hesitant, Blanchard-Brown endorsed the vaccine as “very safe and very effective.” She said side effects for children are similar to those experienced by adults: sore arm, body aches or fever. The Pfizer vaccine has the same ingredients as the vaccine for people ages 12 and older – but in smaller doses. Smaller needles specially designed for children are also used. The vaccine is given in two doses, three weeks apart.
“The best thing patients and families can do as Thanksgiving is approaching and as the holidays are coming up in December, is to vaccinate your children,” Blanchard-Brown said. “That is going to be the best way to keep your children and your family safe.”
Side effects for children are similar to those experienced by adults: sore arm, body aches or fever. The Pfizer vaccine has the same ingredients as the vaccine for people ages 12 and older – but in smaller doses.
Smitha Hahn recommended that parents make an informed decision after speaking with their doctor.
“Whatever concerns you may have, don’t just go to one source of information,” she said. “Seek out multiple sources of information. Do your diligence to be able to get to the truth.”