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Younger kids in the Philly region are getting their COVID-19 vaccines, bringing long-awaited relief for parents

”It’s one more thing we don’t have to worry about."

Shawn Bream, 10 from Towamencin, gets his COVID-19 vaccines from pharmacist Mayank Amin, who owns the Skippack Pharmacy.
Shawn Bream, 10 from Towamencin, gets his COVID-19 vaccines from pharmacist Mayank Amin, who owns the Skippack Pharmacy.Read moreSTEVEN M. FALK / Staff Photographer

Dressed in his Superman costume, Skippack Pharmacy owner Mayank Amin thawed tiny, orange-rimmed vials of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine Wednesday, ready to begin what he is anticipating will be a marathon of getting the region’s children vaccinated.

Moments later, Brennan Sibel came in to get the first shot before his 11th birthday dinner. His father, Stephen Sibel, said he’d long been waiting for this day. Brennan has been attending virtual school, but will likely return in person once fully vaccinated.

The Bream siblings, Lily, 11, and Shawn, 10, had different opinions moments before the small needles went into their arms.

”I wanted to get it as soon as I was eligible,” Lily said. Tuesday evening, final sign-off came for the administration of the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

”I’m not too excited,” her brother said with a shrug, adding that he wasn’t a fan of needles but did look forward to not always having to wear a mask once he’s fully vaccinated.

Within moments, it was done, with Lily remarking that the pinch felt “just like a flu shot.” Amin gave them goodie bags and told them to “keep fighting COVID.” Parents Jeff and Melinda snapped a photo of their kids with Superman and breathed sighs of reliefs.

”It’s one more thing we don’t have to worry about,” said Jeff.

Providers had been ready to vaccinate younger kids, but it may take days for the smaller doses to be available at many places. Some anxious parents on COVID-19 vaccine finder Facebook groups reported difficulty finding early appointments. Local governments and health-care providers were preparing for clinics, though some worried that staff shortages could hinder the vaccination effort. Melissa Sullivan, 37, of Chalfont, said she poked around online Wednesday morning and had no luck finding appointments for her 5- and 7-year-old children, but planned to keep at it.

» READ MORE: Philadelphia-area pediatricians are ready to give young kids their COVID-19 shots, but staff shortages loom

Throughout the region, some places where the pediatric doses had already been delivered were able to spring into action immediately. Amin opened up Skippack Pharmacy around 9 p.m. Tuesday to give the first shots to some volunteers’ children, including Evan Rothholz, 10, who donned a shirt inscribed with an apt lyric from the musical Hamilton: “Not throwing away my shot.”

It remains unclear how many parents will be ready to vaccinate their children in the first weeks of eligibility. National polling has shown many are hesitant, but some local providers say they’ve heard mostly enthusiasm, particularly in areas where uptake of the vaccine has been higher among adults than in many other places nationwide.

Jenny Borcky, 40, of Furlong, Bucks County, said she got the earliest appointments she could this week for her 5- and 8-year-old sons.

“We’ve been waiting for this news and we’re just ready to jump on it,” she said. “There’s no hesitation.”

» READ MORE: Kids 5-11 can now get a COVID-19 vaccine. Here’s what Philly-area parents need to know.

She didn’t want to wait, she said, given that her children are back at school and have already had a couple of close calls. Borcky and her friends have been helping each other find vaccination clinics, she said, and all are eager to get their kids some protection and take a step toward normalcy.

“We have heard from some people that they want to vaccinate their child as soon as it’s available. We have heard from others that they want to wait and see,” Philadelphia spokesperson James Garrow said. “We believe there will be a lot of people interested in getting things back to normal and protecting their children, so we anticipate vaccinating many children.”

In the first 24 hours after the pediatric vaccines were approved, many parents voiced excitement and hope.

“There has been so much anxiety around how to keep our kids safe,” said Sullivan, who has long been planning to take her children to the Peddler’s Village children’s amusement center when they are fully vaccinated. “It’s just a thrilling day.”

“We as parents are feeling that vibe like maybe we can take a breath and relax after they’ve had two shots,” Borcky said. “I really feel like I haven’t been able to exhale.”