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COVID-19 vaccines for kids arrive in time for holidays

Fully vaccinated children ages 5 to 11 look forward to riding trains and planes and hugging grandparents. Pictured, Colin DeGros, 6, of Richmond, gets his COVID-19 vaccine from Allison Mendoza, LVN, at the Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center. At right is his mother, Alli DeGros.

Chalk art, music, snacks, and kids’ television are all part of the program at the Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center COVID-19 vaccine tent for children ages 5 to 11.

Kaiser Permanente began offering the long-awaited Pfizer-BioNTech pediatric vaccine in the second week of November. The vaccine is 90% effective against COVID-19, said Nicola Klein, MD, director of the Kaiser Permanente Vaccine Study Center, which participated in the nationwide trial.

When the vaccine became available, the Kaiser Permanente Richmond COVID-19 vaccine clinic quickly expanded to 7 days a week for both walk-ups and appointments, giving over 400 pediatric shots a day, said Vaccine Clinic Manager Thomas Bradley, BSN, RN. 

Allison Mendoza, LVN, holds her daughter, Gia Jimenez, 6, while she gets vaccinated.

Across Northern California, over 81,000 Kaiser Permanente members ages 5 to 11 received vaccinations in the first month they were available, according to the organization’s regional vaccination team.

Free COVID-19 vaccination appointments can be scheduled at Kaiser Permanente clinics across Northern California. Two shots are required with the second given 21 days after the first. Children will be fully vaccinated 14 days after the second shot.

Colin DeGros, 6, of Richmond, a self-described master of pain who can handle bee stings and shots no problem, came in with his mother.

“I had some tears on the way over here,” said the younger DeGros. “But I didn’t even cry when I got it just now. I know this shot makes it so the coronavirus can’t hurt me. Now I can do more play dates and hang out with my friends.”

The shadows of a mother and daughter cross the “finish line” of the COVID-19 pediatric vaccine clinic at the Kaiser Permanente Richmond Medical Center.

Donovan Taylor, MHA, BSN, RN, who is the assistant medical group administrator for Kaiser Permanente’s East Bay service area, said, “We really wanted to get this set up before Thanksgiving and the holidays, so kids could be fully vaccinated by Christmas, because some grandmas and grandpas haven’t seen their families in almost 2 years.”

The Richmond clinic experience, with its kid-friendly themes, is an effort to “take something that’s scary and make it fun,” added Taylor. The clinic offers private curtained areas for the shot averse, a setup that has the added benefit of reducing rubber-necking panic that sometimes builds up among those waiting in line.

Alex DiGiorgio of Berkeley brought his 5-year-old daughter Yael to Richmond to get her vaccine in the first week it was available.

“This pandemic has been one of the hardest things we’ve been through,” said DiGiorgio. “So, we’re pretty happy to be here.”

When asked what she thought of the experience as she nibbled on free snacks after getting her shot, Yael smiled and gave 2 thumbs up.

“Now I can go on BART trains and fly on airplanes,” she said.

To make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, visit the Kaiser Permanente website.

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