North Carolina plans rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for kids 5 and under

CHARLOTTE — As soon as this week, children as young as 6 months old will be able to get a vaccine to protect against COVID-19.

This weekend, advisers for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, approved both Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of 5 years old and 6 months old.

Now, nearly everyone will be eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine.

Officials with the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said they requested more than 118,000 vaccine doses ahead of the newest age group that can receive the shots.

Channel 9 learned the vaccines will be administered as soon as they arrive -- for many, that’s as soon as Wednesday.

Pfizer and Moderna vaccines will be available at all local health departments, as well as more than 300 pediatric and family medicine offices.

StarMed Healthcare announced it will start administering the newly approved vaccines to children as young as 6 months old. Vaccinations will begin on Wednesday, the company said in a news release.

Pharmacies will also offer the vaccine, but only for kids ages 3 and older.

‘As a father, this is honestly the greatest moment ever’

2-year-old Andranik Piramzadian’s father, Dr. Arin Piramzadian, geared up Monday for another day of saving lives at his clinic.

“This is amazing, this is honestly what we’ve been waiting for about a year and a half now,” Dr. Piramzadian said.

Piramzadian is one of the doctors who will start giving out the COVID vaccines to children on Wednesday.

“It’s completely safe, it is effective in that it’s going to decrease the chance of these long-term COVID side effects,” he said.

It’s another milestone for the frontline hero and father, who plans to get his own toddler vaccinated.

“As a father, this is honestly the greatest moment ever,” he said.

His 2-year-old is among the infants and preschoolers who are now eligible for Pfizer or Moderna shots. Pfizer will be a three-dose regimen. It’s a tenth of the adult dosage and the last shot is given eight weeks after the second shot. Moderna’s infant and toddler shot will be two doses -- it’s a fourth of the adult dosage and they’re given four weeks apart.

>> For information on where you can get vaccinated in North Carolina, click here.

Little Andranik will get his shot in the leg on Wednesday morning, giving the energetic boy more options for where he can play.

“We really haven’t let him be around other people as much,” Piramzadian said. “It’s only been family that’s been around him.”

The shot of protection is giving a dose of relief to some parents.

“This is going to give us that freedom we’ve been really hoping for,” Piramzadian said.

‘Who’s willing put them up as a guinea pig?’

Parents whom Channel 9 spoke with were split on whether or not they would vaccinate their young kids at this point.

“I’m glad that it’s approved for 6 months and up, my twins are 2 years old and dropping them off at day care, I always worry about them contracting COVID,” said mother Cassandra Jones. “And one of the twins has asthma, so that’s a concern.”

“At this point no,” said father Kenneth Ortiz. “Like any parent out there, this is something that’s new, who’s willing put them up as a guinea pig?”

Overall, the FDA said side effects in children are minor. In clinical trials, the most common side effects in young kids were pain, redness and swelling at the injection site, as well as a low-grade fever. Irritability and decreased appetite were also noted.

Leaders from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services said that children are vulnerable to the virus, just like everyone else. They said infection and pediatric hospitalization rates increased significantly during the omicron wave of the virus. Right now, they are seeing those trends increase.

(WATCH BELOW: Mecklenburg County moves from low COVID-19 community level to medium)