SHORELINE — Ten-year-old Micah Wong wasn’t nervous at all when he sat down inside a brightly lit Shoreline Community College building Wednesday afternoon. He grinned under a baseball cap and took a deep breath as a firefighter took his left arm and gave a shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.
“It just felt like a pinch,” said Wong, whose two younger sisters, ages 5 and 7, also got their first shot Wednesday. “It faded away pretty quick.”
Wong was among 10 of the state’s first 5- to 11-year-olds — most the sons and daughters of UW Medicine doctors and staffers — who waited their turn to get Pfizer’s childhood shot Wednesday, after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially greenlit them this week.
The vaccination was over in an instant, though it reflected months of anxious waiting for many younger kids and their parents who have been hoping for doses since the vaccines first became available last winter. Some parents said they felt a wave of relief wash over them as they watched their children get vaccinated, but health officials reminded families the state’s supply will be limited at first, urging patience.
During a Wednesday news briefing, officials with the Department of Health said 57,000 smaller doses have already arrived in the state, with another 38,000 expected by the end of the day.
“Not all parents are going to be able to find appointments over the next couple of days, but supply is building,” said Michele Roberts, DOH’s acting assistant secretary.
She assured families that the state would eventually receive enough doses for all kids.
Washington state is expecting about 230,000 kid-sized doses — about a third of the adult dose — from the federal government, with an additional 86,000 doses scheduled to arrive at pharmacies through the federal pharmacy program, Roberts said last week.
Of the roughly 680,000 children in the 5- to 11-year-old population, Roberts said, she believes about 30% of parents will seek shots for their children.
Other kids getting vaccinated Wednesday in Shoreline were less confident than Wong. One 5-year-old girl, Laila Greaves, clung to her mother and looked away as the needle pricked her. The Shoreline firefighter handed her a lollipop when it was all over.
“Thank you,” she said shyly.
“This is a great day today to be launching the next phase of the pediatric vaccine,” said Dr. Shireesha Dhanireddy, infectious diseases and clinical lead of the UW Medicine COVID-19 vaccination clinics, on Wednesday. “It’s another sign of hope that we will reach an end to this pandemic, hopefully in the near future.”
Dhanireddy’s son, 9-year-old Sashi Olson, was the first up Wednesday.
“His brother got vaccinated earlier this year because he’s 12, and (Sashi) felt very left out in the family,” Dhanireddy said.
As kids stepped up one by one to receive their shot, many told a group of reporters they’re most looking forward to spending more time with their friends once they’re fully vaccinated.
“It’s been really, really, really annoying,” said 11-year-old Sarah Mitchell, whose father is Dr. Steve Mitchell, the medical director of Harborview Medical Center’s emergency department. “My brother was able to do stuff, but I couldn’t because I didn’t have (the shot) yet.”
She said she misses sleepovers the most.
Wong said he’s excited to go to his first Seattle Kraken game for his birthday next month. His youngest sister, Vivienne, clutched a stuffed husky when it was her turn.
“It just felt a bit unsafe before” getting his shot, Wong said after the shot. “ … Now I don’t have to be so worried about the virus.”
UW Medicine plans to start administering the Pfizer shot to youngsters throughout the community on Thursday. As of Wednesday, the hospital system has received 5,700 of the smaller doses, with more expected this week.
“Our kids are ready to get vaccinated — they’ve already been back in school,” Dhanireddy said. “And there’s still a lot of anxiety about COVID and even just a case of the sniffles, our usual winter sniffles, is bringing much fear and concern amongst not only the parents and teachers.”
In King County, epidemiologists have counted more than 25,000 virus infections, 200 hospitalizations and five deaths among those younger than 17 since the pandemic began. In the past two weeks, the county saw about 950 cases, two hospitalizations and one death among kids and teens, said Dr. Mark Del Becarro, the county public health department’s strategic lead for COVID-19 vaccinations, in a county blog post this week.
While most cases among kids aren’t severe, Del Becarro said, the virus can occasionally cause serious infections.
“We need to encourage families to understand that this is a safe vaccine,” Del Becarro said Wednesday in Shoreline. “And this is about making their children and their family safer.”
“This is what we’ve all been waiting for, to get back towards a more normal life,” Del Becarro said. “This is another big step in that process.”
Appointments for kids will soon be available at some doctors’ offices and community clinics, school districts’ pop-up sites, and retail pharmacies. Information about how to set up appointments or be added to the waitlist is available at uwmedicine.org/coronavirus/vaccine.
Seattle Times reporter Amanda Zhou contributed to this story.
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