By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4)– Colorado is poised to implement the next steps of COVID-19 vaccination with the likely federal approval of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5-11. Vaccinations could start right away.

(credit: Getty Images)

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“We need to be everywhere, with this vaccine. We need to be where children are, we need to be where families are,” said Dr. Brandi Freeman, pediatrician and Children’s Hospital Colorado.

Dr. Freeman says she’s very excited, “Christmas is coming early for us in pediatrics. We’re really excited for the opportunity to be able to vaccinate this really important population.”

Some appointments are already available. Mom and registered nurse Jennifer Wilkie booked appointments at Children’s Hospital Colorado in Colorado Springs for her twin 11-year-old girls. Having seen what COVID-19 can do and having followed the studies of the mRNA vaccines carefully, she is not worried.

“I’m not concerned about the vaccine. It’s the virus that terrifies me,” she explained. “I tried to get them enrolled in studies, was never able to. I was a little too late because there are those other parents out there who are a little quicker on it, getting their kids enrolled.”

(credit: Getty Images)

There is some hesitancy expected, say experts.

“There is a lot more hesitancy I think among parents of that age group and you also ideally want the ascent of the child as well that the child’s willing,” said Dr. Connie Price, chief medical officer at Denver Health Medical Center.

There has been some discussion about whether to roll the vaccine out first to children at greater risk because of conditions like asthma or diabetes.

“I don’t think we’re going to hear a tiering approach to the pediatric population,” said Dr. Price. “I think the approval will be this broad group and certainly there may be some emphasis on those most at risk, but I don’t think we’re going to limit any group of children from waiting.”

There might be a new focus on vaccinations among minority groups. Minority children have been more likely to end up requiring hospitalization and rates of vaccination are still low in many minority communities.

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“I think that’s where a partnership with the state and other hospital systems and within the community to get this vaccine into minority communities is going to be critically important,” said Dr. Freeman.

Inequities in health care have been particularly notable during the pandemic. Many families may get good advice from their pediatricians, but only if they have a doctor to go to.

“Medical racism is a real thing,” explained Dr. Freeman. “And so medical equities in terms of health care inequities and disparities that we see in adults, we also see in children.”

(credit: CBS)

Children’s Hospital was a significant part of trials of the vaccine in children.

“The science is good, you know their children’s hospital Colorado was actually one of the largest sites for the Pfizer trial in children. So it’s been our community who has been invested in this science, from the beginning,” Freeman added.

Price noted the vaccination of children has been a missing link in overall protection.

“What we need to do to help the pandemic is just get herd immunity and children are part of that herd. And in order to stop transmission in the community, I think we need to get as many people as possible vaccinated.”

Jennifer Wilkie is glad the vaccine that she and her husband and parents have had is now being extended to her children.

She says they have picked out their arms, “My girls are very anxious to get this.”

She worries about the virus long-term, not the vaccine, “We don’t know what COVID is going to do you ten years from now. It could be just sitting there in your kidneys or in your heart, your lungs latent and then some other virus comes and kicks it on and you’re in a world of hurt.”

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The state’s Vaccine Finder Page will be a site to find the vaccine for children. More information about vaccines for children can also be found here.

Alan Gionet