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Several Thousand Kansas City Area Kids Ages 12 To 15 Have Now Received COVID Vaccine

Children's Mercy Hospital held a COVID-19 vaccination clinic May 17 at its Adele Hall campus for the newly-approved age group.
Children's Mercy Hospital
Children's Mercy Hospital held a COVID-19 vaccination clinic on May 17 at its Adele Hall campus for the newly approved age group.

Children's Mercy Hospital led distribution for the newly approved age group but other providers anticipate turnout will ramp up as schools close for the summer.

The COVID-19 vaccine rollout for kids ages 12 to 15 kicked off just over a week ago and so far Kansas City area vaccination sites are seeing variable turnout numbers.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration last Monday issued emergency use authorization for the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents in that age group.

As of Thursday, Children’s Mercy Hospital said it had administered shots to 1,333 adolescents.

“If you were to ask me a year ago, would I ever anticipate seeing a 12-year-old walk in willingly and smiling and being happy and excited and asking for a vaccine, I would have said you were crazy,” Dr. Ryan McDonough, lead physician for Children’s Mercy’s vaccine clinics, said.

McDonough said demand had been high among children and their parents who want “to get back to normal.”

A study from the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children now account for 22% of new COVID cases across the country.

“Now that we're able to move the vaccine into that age category, we're really going to continue to get rid of COVID in our community,” McDonough said.

Area health departments are hoping for significant participation.

As of Friday, the Jackson County Health Department reported that 2,360 children ages 12 to 15 had been vaccinated.

Health officials in Johnson County say they've also seen fairly high turnout.

The Johnson County Health Department reported Thursday that 2,280 residents between the ages of 12 and 15 have been vaccinated.

“We have several parents who are so happy to get the opportunity to vaccinate their children, especially in the summer months, as many of them are going to summer camps or during travel sports,” Dr. Sanmi Areola, director of the department, said. “It's really a tremendous opportunity to not have to worry about COVID.”

Since last week, Areola said the department has had to pull in additional staff to handle demand.

He said the department saw an uptick in clinic walk-ins and appointments as local schools closed this week. He expects the numbers to continue rising as more schools let out for the summer.

Wyandotte County is also expecting more kids to turn out for vaccines once school lets out.

As of Tuesday, 269 children ages 12 to 15 had been vaccinated in Wyandotte County.

“It's been just kind of slow and steady,” Bob Bennett, Wyandotte County’s vaccine operations director, said.

“We are quite confident just based on the amount of inquiries that we've had, that as soon as school gets out and those kids have got some more free time, that we're going to see a lot more of them,” Bennett said.

The University of Kansas Health System likewise has seen a slow rollout, having administered only 177 shots to children between the ages of 12 and 15 as of Friday.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, medical director of infectious disease at the University of Kansas Health System, said some people may be heading to other places, such as Children’s Mercy or local walk-in pharmacies.

Hawkinson’s children were included in the new age group and were vaccinated this week. With summer activities and sports activities gearing up, he’s urging other parents to vaccinate their children.

“My son has had to be quarantined at least four times over the past year, because he's been in contact with people who've had it. So this is going to help prevent my children from having to quarantine or miss participation,” Hawkinson said.

Hawkinson said that approval to vaccinate younger children could come before school begins in the fall.

McDonough said Children’s Mercy has already begun receiving inquiries about when children younger than 12 can get their shots. He said the hospital has yet to receive word on a date but will be ready when it comes.

More than ever, education lies at the intersection of equity, housing, funding, and other diverse issues facing Kansas City’s students, families and teachers. As KCUR’s education reporter, I’ll break down the policies driving these issues in schools and report what’s happening in our region's classrooms. You can reach me at jodifortino@kcur.org.
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