‘Give them a future’: Health officials urge Philly parents to get their kids vaccinated against COVID

Philly officials are trying to spread the word that city health centers have the COVID-19 vaccine available for children under 5.

Ellen Fraint holds her daughter, 7-month-old Jojo, as she receives the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

Ellen Fraint holds her daughter, 7-month-old Jojo, as she receives the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine for children at Montefiore Medical Group in the Bronx borough of New York City on Tuesday June 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey)

The city of Philadelphia wants to put more COVID-19 shots into the arms of young children through its public health centers.

A few parents brought their children to be vaccinated Wednesday morning at Philadelphia Health Center 9 on Chelten Avenue, but center director Chanel Conley Bacon said they’d like to see more.

The health center is accepting existing patients as they make appointments, and there are provisions for those who do not have an established relationship with a city health center to get vaccinated as well.

“It’s important to remember that the community that we work in every day have been bruised and battered by the COVID-19 pandemic. People are hurting, tired and anxious,” she said. “So, this is why we are here today, to remind them that we can help and take even just this one thing off of their plate.”

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Dr. Ala Stanford, the Region 3 Director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, was widely celebrated for getting Philadelphians vaccinated against COVID-19 when she headed the Black Doctors Consortium. She was back in town this week to join the call to vaccinate the city’s youngest residents.

“The benefits far outweigh any small risk associated, because we know the majority of children are healthy, but that is not enough to protect them,” Stanford said.

She added it’s important that doctors are the ones to vaccinate young children because they typically have a close relationship with those patients.

“The government got that right because children need a special touch. You need to take time with them. You need to observe them afterwards, and you need to make sure the experience is as pleasant as possible because what happens to them now impacts the relationship they have with doctors in the future,” she said. “Not doing it at a pharmacy for that early age was the right decision.”

Some parents are being led astray when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine for their children, said Dr. Victor Igbokidi, the city health department’s medical director of pediatrics and adolescent medicine. He pointed to 25 years ago when all hospitals had pediatric wards with 25 beds for children suffering from serious infections. Medical science has been able to overcome that with vaccines. Igbokidi said the COVID vaccine needs to be part of every parent’s regimen of shots for their children.

“Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be the last pandemic we will face in our lifetime. But this is one pandemic that gives us the opportunity to do the right thing by our children,” Igbokidi said. “Get them vaccinated. Give them a future. There’s always going to be naysayers and some information out there that isn’t just true. But I urge all parents to speak to reliable sources, knowledgeable sources, get the right information, and vaccinate your children,”

Michael Noisette brought her son Mikel into the health clinic because she didn’t want him to get infected with COVID.

“Every parent should get their kid vaccinated to protect their children in the future,” Noisette said through a Creole interpreter.

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City officials say they have enough vaccines to make sure every parent who wants a vaccination for their child can receive one. Those who have existing relationships with the health centers can book a COVID vaccine appointment online. Walk-up vaccination clinics will also be hosted at health centers 3, 6, 5, and 10. Alternatively, those over the age of 3 may visit city pharmacies for the shot.

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