Looking for a COVID-19 vaccine for kids 4 and younger? Here's the latest on availability

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Anne Jefferson, a professor at Kent State University, has had trouble finding a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for her youngest child, Andrew Jefferson.
Anne Jefferson, a professor at Kent State University, has had trouble finding a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for her youngest child, Andrew Jefferson.

Anne Jefferson of Kent has been anxiously awaiting approval for her 17-month-old son to get the COVID-19 vaccine since he was born.

So when the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved doses for children 6 months to 4 years and said they could be available as early as Tuesday, Jefferson jumped into action to get an appointment.

COVID-19 and kids: COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 5 are finally here, but most parents aren't jumping in line

What you need to know: Parents may be able to vaccinate their youngest kids as early as June 21, officials say.

She started logging on to her Akron Children’s Hospital pediatrician’s website and other sites on Monday looking for a vaccine appointment.

What she found was frustration. Jefferson, a Kent State professor of watershed hydrology and geomorphology, took to Twitter and her nearly 12,000 followers on Tuesday to express her disbelief that she could not find providers who even had the shot or appointment availability.

“Approval for under 5s was slow-walked and the hearings were scheduled weeks out. Now there's an approved vaccine and this PhD-holding mama can't get it for her kid. I'm smart, well-resourced and determined. I'm the best case scenario and I'm stymied. This shouldn't be happening,” Jefferson tweeted.

“How about all of those parents who don't have time to hunt for hours for a vaccine appt? Who can't contemplate multiple 300 mile trips to get the closest shot they can find? Those kids are going to be unprotected for months longer than necessary because this roll-out is a mess,” she said.

Other parents across the region and other states replied to express similar frustrations.

In a telephone interview on Wednesday, Jefferson said she was disappointed in the vaccine rollout for the youngest patients. She and her husband had a little trouble scheduling their first vaccine appointments in 2021, but she found an appointment with a few online clicks. It was super easy when her 15- and 7-year-olds were eligible, so she didn’t think she’d have a problem for her 17-month-old, Andrew.

But Jefferson found no available appointments and many pediatric practices and public health departments didn’t even have the vaccine. Many national pharmacies also are not vaccinating the youngest patients. Jefferson found several that required her child to be 18 months or 3 years old. 

More: Most pharmacies in the US can't give your infant or toddler a COVID shot. Here's why.

Anne Jefferson (left), a Kent State University professor, shown with her husband, Chris Rowan, and 17-month-old, Andrew Jefferson, has had trouble finding a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for the toddler.
Anne Jefferson (left), a Kent State University professor, shown with her husband, Chris Rowan, and 17-month-old, Andrew Jefferson, has had trouble finding a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for the toddler.

She was seeing on other mom groups on Facebook that children’s hospitals in Columbus and Cincinnati had availability, but Jefferson didn’t want to drive hours for the vaccine.

“I don’t want to wait weeks more to get my kid started on a vaccine that’s really four months to full protection. I had COVID less than two weeks ago — I'm still getting over it. It was horrible. I’m vaccinated and have one booster. I don’t want my 17 month old to go through that,” she said.

Kent parents with baby extra cautious throughout pandemic

Jefferson said she and her husband have been very careful for the sake of their youngest, who was born during the COVID pandemic on Dec. 31, 2020. They kept him out of daycare until he was over a year old. But they both work, so eventually put him in daycare.

He’s too young to wear a mask or understand keeping a mask on, she said.

“He’s never been in a museum. He’s never been in a library or we’ve done outdoor dining like once or twice, but he’s never been in a restaurant. And that means that my 7-year-old hasn’t gotten to do a lot of those things, either,” she said.

The toddler hasn’t met Jefferson’s husband’s side of the family in the United Kingdom because they didn’t want to fly before the toddler was vaccinated. They canceled summer travel plans as the approval for the vaccine got delayed.

“The system should have been battle tested and should have been ready for this week,” she said.

The Ohio Department of Health’s Get the Shot Coronavirus Vaccine website on Wednesday still said children 4 and under were not eligible.

ODH Spokesman Ken Gordon said the site, https://gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov “is expected to be updated soon, but another option where parents can search for available vaccines is the CDC website www.vaccines.gov”

Gordon said as of Wednesday,16,000 doses for children 6 months to 4 years old had been ordered by Summit County providers.

Anne Jefferson, a professor at Kent State University, has had trouble finding a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for her youngest child, Andrew Jefferson.
Anne Jefferson, a professor at Kent State University, has had trouble finding a COVID-19 vaccine appointment for her youngest child, Andrew Jefferson.

Finally found an appointment

On Tuesday evening, Jefferson finally landed an appointment at a Beachwood pediatric office following a tip from a Twitter follower. On Wednesday, she got some return phone calls that there might be some availability closer to her.

“It feels a little bit like hoarding, but my hope is by the end of the day or tomorrow that I have an appointment (closer) and I can cancel the Beachwood one with enough time before Monday that someone can take it,” she said.

Once her son is fully vaccinated, her family will be able to have a little more freedom. That could include children’s hour at the library. The family used to be members of the Akron Children’s Museum, but “he’s never gotten to go in there.” It’ll also affect her 7-year-old, who wistfully remembers going into a toy store and did not get to take indoor swim lessons. Jefferson’s teenager also opted to go to school online two school years ago because her mom was pregnant “in order to protect the rest of the family.”

“They have really given up a lot for longer than other kids in their age group” to protect their youngest brother,” she said.

Here's the latest on shot availability for the youngest patients in the area:

Summit County Public Health

Summit County Public Health on Wednesday said it will offer COVID-19 vaccine appointments for the Pfizer vaccine in its clinic at 1867 W. Market St. in Akron for children 6 months to 4 years starting Thursday, June 23. Appointments until the Ohio Department of Health site is updated must be made by calling the clinic at 330-375-2772.

Appointments also are available for older children and adults for first doses through booster doses at the health department. All minors must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Masks are required for anyone age 2 and older, except with medical exemptions.

NEOvations Pharmacy Services at NEOMED Health Care Center

NEOMED Health Care Center and its sister team, NEOvations Pharmacy Services, is scheduling appointments for a clinic to be held on Tuesday, June 28 for children six months to 4 years of age. The Moderna vaccine will be offered.

6-29-22 update: A second clinic, scheduled for July 5 that was to offer the Pfizer vaccine, will only be offering the Moderna vaccine for first doses. Another clinic with Moderna vaccines will be Aug. 2 for either first or second doses.

The pharmacy is located on the second floor of the medical office building in the NEW Center at Northeast Ohio Medical University, 4211 State Route 44 in Rootstown.

The link to schedule an appointment can be found at https://hipaa.jotform.com/221724233826150 Call 330-578-4070 or email info@neovationsrx.com for more information.

Kent City Health Department

Kent City Health Commissioner Joan Seidel on Wednesday said her department did not pre-order COVID vaccines for the under-4 age group “because we felt the vast majority of parents/guardians/caregivers would prefer to have the vaccine from their pediatrician."

"We would be obligated to order a set amount of vaccine and then have to find someone else to transfer it to when we could not use it all,” she said.

Seidel said that’s why her department didn’t order the vaccine for the ages 5 to 11 age group, either.

However, Seidel said since she was hearing that some retail pharmacies were limiting the ages of children they could vaccinate and delays from other providers, she was reconsidering whether to order a supply. Seidel said to watch the health department’s website and social media for updates. She estimated she could get the vaccine within a week of ordering it from the state.

Portage County Health District

The Portage County Health District “is waiting on a standing order from Pfizer for the 6 month and up age as well as delivery of our order of vaccine to come in,” spokeswoman Becky Lehman said. “We will be putting out a press release and advertising our clinics as soon as we are able to offer this vaccine for this population.”

Akron Children’s Hospital

Akron Children’s Hospital received its shipment Tuesday evening and is distributing the vaccines to more than 40 regional locations, said Craig McGhee, vice president of primary care and regional services.

McGhee said if demand exceeds capacity, "we will consider larger vaccination clinics."

At this time, however, there are no plans for walk-in clinics.

Appointments will open on Sunday and vaccines will begin being administered on Monday.

Go to www.akronchildrens.org/covidvaccine or your My Chart account or call 330-543-2778. Vaccine recipients do not need to be current Children’s Hospital patients to receive the vaccine.

University Hospitals

Some University Hospital Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital pediatric locations throughout Northeast Ohio have begun administering the vaccine to children 4 and younger, a spokeswoman said. Contact your pediatrician for an appointment.

Beacon Journal staff reporter Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or blinfisher@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her @blinfisherABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/BettyLinFisherABJ To see her most recent stories and columns, go to www.tinyurl.com/bettylinfisher

This article originally appeared on Akron Beacon Journal: Akron-area parents seeking COVID vaccine for kids 4 and younger