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HUNTINGTON — The COVID-19 vaccine is available for a new age group, and children and families are taking advantage of the opportunity locally.

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department offered the vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 for the first time and more than 60 individuals received the first dose of the pediatric vaccine Thursday.

“We’ve had parents calling us since it was announced and even before that wondering when they could get their children vaccinated. We’ve had a really great response, and I’m happy about that,” said Hannah Petracca, public information officer for the Cabell-Huntington Health Department.

Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine is administered in two doses, 20 days apart, and is 10 micrograms, or one-third of the size of the adult and adolescent doses. Its use was authorized by the Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday.

Among the parents who brought their children to be vaccinated Thursday was Sarah Gibbs, who has two daughters, ages 5 and 7, with preexisting heart conditions.

“They both have congenital heart disease, so I’ve been very worried for them,” Gibbs said. “I knew as soon as it was approved for their age group (they) would be getting it.”

Likewise, there was no hesitation for Shandra Inglis-Smith, the mother of a fourth-grader at Meadows Elementary School in Huntington, who has kept a mask on her daughter when in public for the length of the pandemic until she was eligible to receive the vaccine.

“We’ve significantly restricted where we go and what we do because she hasn’t been able to be vaccinated like the rest of us. It’s been a huge impact on her to have to be constantly wearing a mask even in situations where we have maybe been able to be un-masked,” Smith said.

Opening the vaccine to a new age group is another step toward normalcy, Petracca said, adding that the vaccine clinic was busier than usual Thursday.

“This is a big deal because up until now, there was a big population, these children, that weren’t able to get vaccinated,” Petracca said. “This eligibility for them means getting closer to the end of this (pandemic).”

On Friday, Nov. 5, Marshall Health will host a pediatric vaccine clinic from 2 to 5 p.m. in the Harless Auditorium on the ground floor of the Marshall University Medical Center in Huntington. The clinic is open to walk-ins. Availability is limited.

Next week, Cabell County Schools will host a pediatric clinic Friday, Nov. 12, at Huntington High School from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for children of district employees and for adults to get a first or second dose or booster shot.

Luke Creasy is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter @LukeCreasy or reach him by phone at 304-526-2800.

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