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Maine health care providers working to get COVID vaccines to kids ages 5 to 11 under new guidelines

Some Maine kids 5 to 11 years old are already getting vaccinated against COVID-19 after the U.S. CDC recommended a lower dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for them on Tuesday night.

State health officials are urging parents to get their kids vaccinated, and the state's two biggest health systems say they're working to reach the newly eligible group.

Carol Bousquet
Charlotte Grantham, a 10-year-old who attends Falmouth Elementary School, gets a shot of coronavirus vaccine.

Northern Light Health said on Wednesday that it's waiting for a shipment of the lower-dose pediatric COVID-19 vaccine and on Monday will begin scheduling appointments for children age 5 to 11.

And MaineHealth says it's helping 77 schools ramp up vaccine clinics for kids under the new eligibility. The organization says families should hear from their districts about when clinics will occur.

Dr. James Jarvis, who helps lead Northern Light's COVID-19 response, is urging parents to protect not only their children but themselves as caregivers.

"The fact of the matter is children shouldn't be sick and die from diseases we can prevent," Jarvis said. "So this offers us an opportunity to protect them and ourselves. Too many children have been orphaned from this disease and we don't want to see that happen anymore."

Northern Light, which operates 10 Maine hospitals and more than 100 health care facilities, says it is assisting school districts with vaccine clinics to ensure every child has the opportunity to get the shot, even if they live in a rural area.

It's online vaccine registration site will open Monday, Nov. 8 and can be found at Northerlighthealth..org. Northern Light is also assisting with school-based clinics in Maine.

Violet Walters, 10, of Saco got her first dose of COVID-19 vaccine on Wednesday, and she says it's worth it to be with her friends at school and stay safe.

"Some people I knew were getting COVID and close contact. My best friend did and she wasn't in school for a very long time and it made me very sad. So I really wanted to get vaccinated," Walters said.

Health officials say more infections are occurring in children under 12 nationally and in Maine, and that the vaccine is 90.7 % effective in protecting children against COVID-19.

Andrew Grantham, the father of a Falmouth fifth grader who got her shot on Wednesday, says he hopes other parents will see the benefits of having their kids vaccinated.

"Everyone has a right to their opinion but I just feel the sooner we get back to normal the better it will be for our kids," he said.

Maine CDC director Dr. Nirav Shah says a primary concern he hears from parents is about a potential side effect that causes inflammation of the heart muscle, called myocarditis.

Shah says the side effect is extremely rare — there have been fewer than 900 cases in the US out of 86 million doses administered. And he says COVID-19 itself can also cause myocarditis.

"The risk of myocarditis from COVID is roughly 15 times higher than the risk of myocarditis from the vaccine," he says.

Shah says the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for kids and helps limit the spread of the virus in the community.