NOBLESVILLE, Ind. — After getting the green light from the CDC, Hoosiers ages 5 to 11 are now eligible for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.
On Wednesday, hundreds of children and their parents lined the halls of the Hamilton County 4-H Fairgrounds vaccine clinic. Pediatric doses of the vaccine were available on a walk-in basis from 3 to 7 p.m., but health officials said they were quickly overwhelmed with the response.
“We started a day earlier than we thought we were going to… but since it was approved [Tuesday] night it kind of took us a little bit by surprise,” said Janice VanMetre, director of nursing for the Hamilton County Health Department. “We didn’t expect this large of a turnout.”
While the turnout was unexpected, VanMetre said she is happy to see long lines return to the vaccine clinic.
“We’ve been here for almost two hours,” said Katie Giesting, a Carmel parent. “We were actually getting the kids off the bus and one of my neighbors told us there was a clinic going on here. So we got in the car straight from the bus and came straight here, didn’t we?”
The Giestings made it a family affair — all three of Katie’s children ages 5, 7, and 11 received their first dose on Wednesday.
“On my Christmas list I said the COVID vaccine,” said 11-year-old Adeline Giesting. “And then I was just driving in the car and I was like ‘Oh my gosh, it’s finally here! We can get the vaccine!’“
For Adeline, it was a Christmas wish that came early. For Noblesville parent, David Thomas, getting his nine-year-old son vaccinated was a long-awaited task.
“We’ve been looking forward to this day for a long, long time,” said Thomas. “He’s immunocompromised so we’ve really kept him at home.”
Thomas said his son, Simon, has been e-learning since the start of the pandemic, but getting his first dose means he can one day return to in-person learning when he is fully vaccinated.
“Just getting life back to normal is really something we’ve been looking forward to,” said Thomas.
Amie Pratt and her eight-year-old son, Landon, traveled from Westfield and arrived just minutes before the clinic opened.
“I kind of stalked the internet,” said Amie Pratt. “There was a portal that came up as the day went along with more opening opportunities. I know IMS was one and then this [vaccine clinic] popped up so I grabbed him from school early and I made it happen.”
The Pfizer vaccine is the only COVID-19 vaccine that is currently authorized for use in individuals under age 18. State Health officials say additional vaccine locations will be updated at www.ourshot.in.gov.
“Waiting in the line I actually saw somebody from school. I played with them and it made the line go shorter,” said eight-year-old Landon Pratt. “This was funner than I thought it would be actually… it didn’t hurt that much. It was really quick so I didn’t really feel it.”
“It’s a day that everyone’s been waiting for – I mean – the parents have been waiting for it, we’ve been waiting for it, and we’re super excited that it’s been going so well,” said VanMetre.
VanMetre said Wednesday’s clinic acted as a practice run for when registration opens to all Hoosiers on Thursday.
“We’ve also called in some extra people to help us with registration so hopefully that will start going a little bit smoother,” VanMetre said.
The Hamilton County Public Health Department has also already requested additional doses from the Indiana Department of Health.
“We made the phone call to tell them that this was beyond our wildest expectation and that we’re probably going to be using up all of our vaccine,” said VanMetre. “We may use all of our vaccine this evening with all the people that are here and we might not have any available tomorrow. People are just going to have to be patient.”
Individuals are encouraged to make an appointment or call ahead to ensure that a site has vaccine available prior to visiting the location. A parent or guardian must provide consent, and children under 16 must be accompanied to the vaccination appointment by an adult.
The pediatric dose of Pfizer is lower than the dosage for ages 12 and older, so parents should ensure they visit a site that carries the pediatric dosage.
To find these clinics, visit https://ourshot.in.gov beginning Thursday and look for the pin designating sites with the pediatric vaccine.