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After initial rush, children’s COVID-19 vaccine appointments available in St. Louis

Irene Felsch, 7, of Kirkwood, reacts prior to resident physician Riti Chokshi administrating the COVID-19 vaccine on Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. The federal government recently approved vaccinations for children from 5 to 12 years-of-age.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Irene Felsch, 7, of Kirkwood, reacts prior to resident physician Riti Chokshi administrating the COVID-19 vaccine earlier this month. More appointments are available for children in the St. Louis region to get the vaccine.

Many parents hurried to get their children vaccinated earlier this month after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the vaccine for children ages 5 through 11.

After the CDC approved the pediatric vaccine, the federal government shipped limited numbers of the lower-dose children’s version to pharmacies and clinics in Missouri, and appointments quickly filled up.

But St. Louis doctors now say they have enough shots for anyone who wants them for their children.

“There was a slight delay from when the CDC actually approved it, but for the most part with the health centers we are all up and running,” said Dr. Melissa Tepe, chief medical officer at Affinia Healthcare, which operates several community health centers in the region. “We’ve almost gone through our first shipment and we’re expecting a large shipment today.”

Even if one clinic is booked up, it’s likely that an event or pharmacy nearby will have an opening to vaccinate a child, she said.

Just two weeks in, the rush for children has tapered off slightly, said Spring Schmidt, St. Louis County Department of Public Health deputy director.

“We have received additional shipments. The supply chain looks really solid right now,” she said. “We do expect this to be a little slower and more cautiousin this age group, but we did see a really good turnout in the first week.”

More than 5,000 children in St. Louis County received their vaccine within the first week of distribution, Schmidt said. Community events at libraries and schools usually fill up, but county-run community health clinics often have many appointments for children available each day, she said.

Appointments are still going fast at the region’s hospitals, said Dr. Clay Dunagan, head of the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force.

“The anticipation was high, and the doses of vaccine that have been available has been used as quickly as they’ve come in,” he said. “We don’t have any impression this has caused a collapse in interest in the vaccine, and appointments are booking up.”

Dunagan expects the initial surge in interest to quickly subside as the parents who are most eager to have their children vaccinated do so.

“In the previous wave with teenagers we had very strong demand for the beginning and it fell off,” he said. “We’ll probably see the same thing. I don’t think anyone should feel anxious [that] they’ll be able to get their child vaccine.”

In Missouri, about 10% of children ages 5 to 14 are fully vaccinated.

St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones on Monday will hold a virtual town hall meeting for parents to discuss childhood COVID-19 vaccinations with Dr. Mati Hlatshawyo Davis, the city's health director, and Dr. Fred Echols, health commissioner.

“COVID-19 vaccination is safe, effective and free. I made sure my son got vaccinated to help protect him and our loved ones against COVID-19,” Jones said. “Our pediatric vaccination program is community-driven, and this is an important opportunity for parents to have their questions answered.”

Follow Sarah on Twitter: @Petit_Smudge

Sarah Fentem is the health reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.