Mill Creek — Six-year-old Duke winced as he got his first COVID-19 vaccine shot last weekend. Luckily, his older brother Gage, sporting an Iron Man shirt, was there to hold his hand.
Gage, Duke and 9-year-old Kane were champs, mom Hollie Peterson said. “Their arms weren’t even sore.”
After 20 months of living in a pandemic, the three quick jabs at their long-time pediatrician’s office felt like a step toward normalcy, Peterson said. The pandemic has gutted the Snohomish family’s schedule once packed with sports practices.
Duke, now in kindergarten, has never experienced an unmasked school year.
As pediatric doses roll out, Peterson hopes families — especially those with immunocompromised children — can feel more comfortable with in-person school and activities.
“I’m just hoping that people do what they need to do,” she said. “… We want to be part of the solution.”
The Peterson kids were vaccinated just days after pediatric doses received federal approval. But most families trying to get their kids vaccinated against COVID-19 are still searching for open slots as demand continues to outweigh supply.
Edmonds teacher Marcus Merrifield made the hour-plus drive to Puyallup on Thursday to get his 7- and 9-year-old vaccinated.
He said the kids were excited to finally get the shots. Mom and dad, along with their two older siblings, have been fully vaccinated for months. For 9-year-old Marcus, it’s been emotional to watch his unvaccinated classmates miss school to quarantine.
“This is really about keeping our kids from being out of school,” Merrifield said.
The message from county and state health officials has been consistent: Parents should be patient and continue looking for appointments either directly through their pediatricians or through the state’s vaccine locator website.
“Trying to find an appointment can feel kinda like trying to win the lottery,” Snohomish Health District health officer Dr. Chris Spitters said earlier this week.
That’s expected, he added, since there are about 75,000 Snohomish County kids aged 5-11. Snohomish County is expecting a weekly allocation of 6,000-10,000 doses.
Olivia Covert got a recent text that children could get vaccinated through the Everett School District. In the few minutes it took to sign her 11-year-old up, she said she watched about 150 open slots dwindle to just a handful. On Monday, the district announced that appointments for its clinic six days out had already filled up.
North Sound Pediatrics is quickly blowing through its weekly allocation of a few hundred doses, said office manager Karlie Best.
“Which is a relief, because we were warned this age group would be very hesitant,” she said. “… For each hesitant parent there are 10 that just walk up to our window in tears, excited that today’s the day their child gets protected.”
The clinic’s Dr. Stephen Shlafer is answering questions about the vaccine daily. He said those conversations feel just like the ones he has about other childhood vaccines. He’s not surprised by the level of demand his team is dealing with.
“Most people accept the fact that vaccines prevent disease and prevent serious disease,” Shlafer said.
Vaccinating the entire age group in Snohomish County with the two-dose series would take at least 12 weeks, according to the local health district. But Spitters said vaccination rates among 5- to 11-year-olds could top out around 60%. That’s based on vaccination rates seen in older kids.
In a news briefing this week, state epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist declined to predict how many kids would need to get vaccinated to significantly drive down infections. Washington state’s case rate per 100,000 is still in the mid-300s. Snohomish County is fairing slightly worse.
Lindquist said it’s a difficult prediction to make when there are pockets of unvaccinated communities. But with 5- to 11-year-olds representing a large segment of those without protection, he said, “any bit helps.”
Claudia Yaw: 425-339-3449; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @yawclaudia.