Editorial: COVID vaccines for children 5 to 11 now available at local health departments at no cost

On Monday, health departments across North Georgia -- including those in Whitfield and Murray counties -- began offering the free Pfizer pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to children 5 to 11 years old.

The shots are now available following the expansion of Pfizer's Emergency Use Authorization to children in this age group, and guidance from the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Georgia Department of Public Health.

You don't need an appointment for a COVID vaccine at public health departments in the North Georgia District which includes Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield counties. Officials do recommended logging onto www.nghd.org to find out each clinics' operating hours and locations.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said: "We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine."

According to the state Department of Public Health:

• The Pfizer COVID vaccine is over 90% effective at preventing COVID in children ages 5 through 11 years.

• After getting a COVID vaccine, children may have some side effects similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines. The most common side effect was a sore arm.

• Vaccinating children will help protect them from getting COVID and reduce their risk of severe disease, hospitalization, or long-term COVID complications.

• Getting your children vaccinated can help protect them against COVID, as well as reduce disruptions to in-person learning and activities by helping curb community transmission.

• COVID vaccines have undergone -- and continue to undergo -- the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.

In Whitfield County, 42% (42,821) of residents are fully vaccinated while 46% (48,440) of residents have received at least one vaccine dose. That trails state percentages of 50% of residents who are fully vaccinated and 56% of residents who have received at least one vaccine dose.

We urge you to consult with your children's pediatrician about the COVID vaccine and make the decision to protect your children and your community.

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