Health care centers and education officials across the country are preparing to roll out school-based vaccine clinics in the coming weeks after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday approved vaccine shots for children ages 5 to 11.

As a result, more than 28 million children in the US will now be able to receive the shots that provide protection against COVID-19.

While this is welcome news for many families, some parents remain hesitant, citing the lack of large-scale studies and long-term data on its effects.

According to a Kaiser Family Foundation, a public opinion and survey research program, about three in 10 parents of 5-11 year olds, are eager to get a vaccine for their child, while a third say they will wait to see how the vaccine is working.

Three in 10 parents, or 31%, said they would not get their children vaccinated.

Their main concern is with feared unknown long-term effects of the vaccine, including two-thirds who are concerned the vaccine may affect their child’s future fertility, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation survey.

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Leah Marks, a Topsham resident and a mother of four children aged 6-13, said that she believes in parents’ freedom to choose when and where to vaccinate or inoculate their children.

“I am a profound believer in the parents’ discretion and ability to navigate the information flow that they receive and seek out to meet the needs of their children in the best way that they can,” said Marks.

Bath parent Alyce Ornella, whose child is in first grade at Dike Newell School, said she is looking forward to getting her kid vaccinated.

“I signed up my 6 year old as soon as the appointments went live for the Midcoast clinic last night,” said Ornella. “He has an underlying medical issue, and I have been anticipating the vaccine becoming available for his age group, to protect him from any of the long-term effects of COVID-19 if he were to catch it.

“He was born with a birth defect of the airway and the esophagus, which required surgery at two days old to save his life, and he was also born with early stage chronic kidney disease,” Ornella said.

Ornella said she is concerned that a severe or prolonged case of COVID-19 could negatively impact his kidney function and cause the disease to progress more rapidly.

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She added that she is looking forward to taking her child to visit family in Ohio in the coming months, and they are planning a trip to Italy next summer.

“I haven’t taken him out of New England since March 2020,” said Ornella. “I am also looking forward to taking him on some trips, and him being vaccinated was key to that being able to happen.”

Jenny Lowell, a mother of three children in the Lisbon school system, said that her family is choosing to get their kids vaccinated because they believe the vaccine is safe and effective in preventing serious illness from COVID-19.

“I want to protect my children from getting ill or having long-term complications from the virus, getting vaccinated decreases their risk significantly,” said Lowell. “The more the people get vaccinated, the less likely other variants will emerge.”

She said her children are prepared for the vaccine and are signed up to receive their first shot.

“We have been talking about this as a family for a month, and they have been looking forward to get the vaccine,” said Lowell.

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During a media briefing on Wednesday, Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention said that he has heard some concerns from parents about the vaccine, but it has been proven to be safe and effective.

He said one of the most common concerns is around myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that has been seen in some cases after the vaccine but is very rare. Nationally, the U.S. CDC is aware of just 877 cases of myocarditis in people under 30 out of 86 million doses of vaccine administered, Shah said. None of those people died and most recovered in a matter of days.

Experts from John Hopkins Medicine, a research-intensive medical school in Maryland, say that myocarditis is a much more common complication of having COVID-19 than from getting vaccinated.

They say the myocarditis or pericarditis in almost all cases is mild and resolves quickly.

The rollout of vaccines for children aged 5-11 comes six months after a similar effort to reach kids aged 12-15, a group that is now 60% vaccinated, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each dose is 10 micrograms. While 70% of Maine’s population is vaccinated, children under 12 have not been eligible for the shot.

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Maine already has received a shipment from the federal government with about 33,900 doses. That is enough for slightly more than one-third of the doses needed to cover the 96,000 five-11-year-old children in the state who are eligible. More shipments are expected in the coming weeks, according to a report by the Portland Press Herald.

The Brunswick School Department has announced that they are partnering with the Midcoast Hospital to set up pediatric vaccination clinics within the school department.

According to a community letter from Superintendent Phil Potenziano on Wednesday, community clinics will be held at the Coffin School from Nov. 8-17 for any child aged 5-11. Appointments are required and a sign-up form is available on the Midcoast Health website.

In addition, a clinic for students at Kate Furbish Elementary School, Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School and Brunswick Junior High School will be held at the Kate Furbish Elementary School on Nov. 22 from 10 a.m. to1 p.m.

Students from Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary and Brunswick Junior High School can use the buses to the clinic from their schools. Sign-up materials are available on the Brunswick School Department website.

“Vaccinating our children is the next step we can take in helping to end the pandemic,” Potenziano wrote.

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Similarly, the Lisbon School Department is working on a partnership with a local pediatric group and parents who have expressed interest in helping put a clinic together in the town.

Lisbon School Department Superintendent Richard Green, however, said they had not received any specific information related to the vaccine for children aged five-11, but he is confident that those details will be a part of their clinic.

“Information related to the day and time of the clinic will be shared on Monday during our regular meeting,” said Green.

He added that the information related to the vaccine has been made available to all the families through various media outlets, which he thinks will play a part in their decision to get their children vaccinated or not.

Wiscasset School Department will be holding vaccination clinics for students aged five-12 from Nov. 9-30. Information about these clinics has already been sent out to families, according to the school department’s website.

In Regional School Unit 5, which serves Freeport, Pownal and Durham, Superintendent Becky Foley said the school district is working on a partnership with Freeport Community Services and Mid Coast Hospital to host a local vaccination clinic.

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The clinic would be on Nov. 18, however, the details are yet to be finalized. Foley said she believes the clinic would be exclusively for those aged five-11.

According to an Oct. 29 community letter from Foley, as of Friday, there were 44 confirmed positive cases of COVID-19 in RSU 5, with seven cases in the past fourteen days. The vaccination rate on Friday among staff stood at 95.4%.

Topsham-based Maine School Administrative District 75 and Regional School Unit 1 are also collaborating with Mid Coast Hospital to set up a vaccination clinic for children aged five-11.

The School Board’s Interim Superintendent Robert Lucy said the clinic will be held from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 19 at Mt. Ararat Middle School.

The school board serves Topsham, Bowdoin, Bowdoinham and Harpswell.

Students from regional School Unit-1 can go to Coffin School in Brunswick from Nov. 8-17 to get vaccinated, or a clinic will be set up at Morse High School in Bath on Nov. 19.

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The school district covers Bath, Arrowsic, Phippsburg and Woolwich.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the distribution of pediatric vaccination across the country started this week, with plans to scale up to full capacity starting the week of Nov. 8.

 

Times Record Reporter C. Thacher Carter contributed to this report. This story was updated at 8:15 a.m. Monday, Nov. 8, to correct the location of the MSAD 75 vaccine clinic. The clinic will be located at Mt. Ararat Middle School. 


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