Hilton Alexander Napoleon can’t wait for summer.
After more than a year of online learning during the pandemic, the 12-year-old will be playing basketball at camp. His parents feel comfortable sending him now that he’s in line to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
“We’re excited and happy honestly that he’s one step closer to being healthy and safe,” said his mother, Xiomara Napoleon.
Like others, the Coral Gables family has lost a loved one to COVID-19. Other relatives got sick, too, but recovered. But it hasn’t been easy — Hilton’s grandfather was in the hospital for 71 days before he was discharged.
Xiomara Napoleon and her husband, Hilton Napoleon II, are fully vaccinated now. And in the next few days, Hilton will likely be getting a shot to reduce his risk of infection.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Monday authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to be used in kids as young as 12. An advisory committee from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday recommended that the vaccine be used among kids ages 12 to 15. Currently, Pfizer’s vaccine can only be given to people 16 and older.
The CDC advisory committee will give its recommendation to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. If she approves the recommendation, the vaccine could start being given to kids in that age group as soon as Thursday.
And Hilton’s pediatrician, Dr. Tina Carroll-Scott, is ready.
The South Florida doctor is partnering with Miami-Dade County to run a Pfizer pop-up on Saturday, May 15, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., at South Miami Children’s Clinic, where she is medical director. The site at 6701 SW 58th Pl. will vaccinate people 12 and older by appointment only.
Proof of age — birth certificate, ID, passport — will be required. Kids and teens under 18 will also need to have a parent or legal guardian with them at the vaccination.
The doctor previously held a pop-up at the clinic in March to help Black and Hispanic families, the clinic’s primary patients, get vaccinated. These two communities have been disproportionately affected by the disease. Many are essential workers who live in vulnerable multi-generational households.
Her focus is now on the children.
“I’m standing behind this vaccine not only as a pediatrician but as a mother and am vaccinating my own child to show that I feel like it’s safe and would like to instill confidence in that age group,” said Carroll-Scott, who has worked for more than two decades treating children who are uninsured or underinsured, including migrant families.
Her 15-year-old daughter, Lauren, will be getting the shot Saturday, pending federal approval. Carroll-Scott’s other two kids, an 18-year-old and a 23-year-old, have already been fully vaccinated with Pfizer. Carroll-Scott and her husband are also fully vaccinated.
While most kids and teens usually have mild symptoms if they get COVID-19, some fall seriously ill and have to be hospitalized. Some have died. And just like adults, kids can also experience long-term effects of COVID-19. Some kids have also been diagnosed with multi-system inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, a rare but serious and sometimes deadly complication associated with COVID-19 in people under 21, according to the CDC.
“Every time we think we got the virus figured out, it does something else that is completely unexpected. So it’s critically important for us to get people vaccinated as quickly as possible,” Carroll-Scott said.
In preparation for the pediatric vaccine, Carroll-Scott said she’s been doing “targeted outreach” since Friday, not just with her patients and their families but in surrounding neighborhoods to let people know about the vaccination pop-up. She also reached out to school coaches so they could share the information with students.
All 1,202 appointments were booked by Tuesday morning using Miami-Dade County’s online portal and call center. Carroll-Scott said 1,162 of the appointments are for kids 12 to 15. For her, it’s a sign that parents want their teens to get vaccinated so life can get back to normal.
The pop-up will return to the clinic after 21 days to give people their second dose.
‘I trust the vaccine more than this virus’
And just like at the previous pop-ups, Carroll-Scott wants to make the vaccinations feel like a celebration. She’ll be giving out bumper stickers in English, Spanish and Creole as well as masks in English and Creole (she ran out of Spanish masks) with the words, “I trust the vaccine more than this virus!”
Her daughters are setting up a playlist with hit songs (the clean kid-friendly versions) from popular artists like Cardi B and Bruno Mars to help calm children who are afraid of needles.
Parents can also ask for their kids to be given the shot using a ShotBlocker, a plastic device her clinic uses with kids that are scared of needles. The device is placed on the child’s arm, distracting them so they rarely feel the needle, she said.
Carroll-Scott says she’s hearing positive feedback from excited parents, but she knows some might be concerned about letting their kids get the shot, even if they were vaccinated themselves.
The 10-day Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause last month “put a lot of fear back into people especially community of colors and it played into the fear they had … including of Pfizer and Moderna,” Carroll-Scott said. The J&J pause has been lifted, but some of the anxiety hasn’t.
She wants parents to know that health officials have determined that the Pfizer vaccine is safe. Side effects in kids are similar to those experienced in adults, including headaches, injection site pain and fatigue. Late-stage trial data also showed that the shot reduced the risk of infection in children 12 to 15 years old by 100%, meaning no vaccinated kids were infected, according to McClatchy News.
“We cannot end this pandemic without the kids,” she said.
As for the Napoleons, they’re exited to see Hilton get his shot and are hoping his 10-year-old sister, Frances, will be eligible for a vaccine soon, too. And in the meantime, Hilton has a request for others:
“Take the vaccine so you can have a normal life again.”