Little kids finally get their shot

June 21, 2022
A woman gives a little boy a vaccine as his mother holds him
Maverick Bily cringes in the arms of his mother Natalie, as Ciera Reed administers his COVID-19 vaccine. Photos by Sarah Pack

Tuesday was a good day for Natalie Bily. As for her son, Maverick – eh, maybe not so much.

Maverick turns 2 years old later this year, which meant that up until this past weekend, he wasn’t eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But on Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on vaccinations for children under the age of 5, clearing the way for the blue-eyed boy’s date with the needle.

“He usually gets over shots pretty quickly, but I’m sure he won’t be happy when it happens,” Bily said. “I’m not really worried though … he’s a pretty chill kid.”

Maverick was the first child in the newly eligible age range of 6 months to under 5 years old to be vaccinated with Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine at the Medical University of South Carolina. And to be honest, he probably handled it better than most adults. 

Ciera Reed, a certified medical assistant played the unenviable role of the villain, quickly plunging the needle in the boy’s leg, unlike the upper arm for anyone over the age of 5. That quick act turned Maverick’s smile upside down – but only temporarily. Because, after all, what villain worth her salt doesn’t have colorful stickers to give away?

Bily said that she and her husband had been eagerly following the news, wanting to get their son vaccinated as soon as it was deemed safe, since he’s about to go off to preschool for the first time. 

A close up of the new Pfizer vaccine for children under the age of 5 
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine comes in a smaller vial and needs to be mixed with saline.

“We just wanted him to be as protected as possible,” she said, as Maverick sucked on an orange Matchbox car, his yellow badge of courage peeking out from just below his shorts. “Plus, this will allow us to do more traveling without feeling like we’re putting him at risk.”

Last week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded the emergency use authorizations for the Pfizer vaccine to include children 6 months through 4 years, having formerly been available for use in individuals 5 years and older, and Moderna’s to include children 6 months through 17 years, which previously only had been authorized for use in adults 18 and older.

That’s nearly 17 million kids who are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccines.

The vaccine itself is no different than what adults or younger children get – the main difference being that it’s a lower dosage, and it’s mixed with saline. Children who receive the Pfizer vaccine will get three doses – the second coming 3 to 8 weeks after the first, and the third coming two months after the second. Moderna will include two doses, but, to date, MUSC has not received a shipment. 

Ali Worthy, director of administrative operations for MUSC Health’s pandemic response team said the team wasn’t sure what to expect right out of the gate as far as patient volume went. Her team received the vaccine Tuesday morning and was administering it not long after lunch on the same day.

“We’re ready no matter what, but we figure the longer we’re up and running, the more people will hear about it and the more we’ll start to see,” she said from inside MUSC Health’s Lockwood Boulevard vaccination site.

Going forward, the vaccine will be available at both the Lockwood and Rutledge Tower locations, Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Parents interested in getting their children vaccinated can sign up for a time slot using their MyChart account or, if they don’t have one, by simply calling 843-876-7227. 

Worthy said appointments are preferred, but they will still take walk-up patients. 

“We want to make this as easy as possible on these parents,” she said. “Making an informed decision is hard enough, getting the vaccine shouldn’t be.”