June Leffler Published

140,000 W.Va. Kids Now Eligible For COVID-19 Vaccine


Federal health agencies have authorized the COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5 through 11. That means about 140,000 kids in West Virginia are newly eligible to get their shots, according to an estimate from the State Department of Health and Human Resources.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final go-ahead on a vaccine for younger kids Tuesday. The agency recommended a dose of the Pfizer vaccine that is one third of the amount given to older kids and adults. It is also a two-part series taken three weeks apart.

A Kanawha County doctor and mom joined Gov. Jim Justice’s COVID-19 press briefing Wednesday. Dr. Jessica McColley of Cabin Creek Health Systems brought her seven year-old son Jacob and gave him the shot live on air.

“I started the conversation with my children as soon as vaccines were made available for adults that ‘This will be available for you someday. This is how we can help to get rid of COVID all together,’” said McColley.

McColley and her son’s statewide appearance takes a page from another West Virginia’s doctor playbook to encourage parents to consider the vaccine for their children. Former Kanawha-Charleston Health Department Director Dr. Sherri Young vaccinated her daughter publicly when the CDC recommended Pfizer for those 11 to 15.

State officials celebrated the latest guidance from the CDC.

“We know from the medical community that this is best,” Justice said.

State Health Officer Dr. Ayne Amjad recommended the shot for all kids of age to prevent transmitting the virus and long-haul COVID effects. She also recommended parents consult their child’s pediatrician if they have any concerns about the vaccine.

“For example maybe there is a child who is undergoing chemotherapy or is on a certain medication that maybe perhaps it’s not the right time for them to have the COVID-19 vaccine right now,” Amjad said.

So far, 172 children ages 5 to 11 have died because of COVID-19 in the nation.

About 8,300 children in that age range have been hospitalized with COVID-19, according to a recent CDC presentation. Research also found that Black, Native American and Hispanic children are much more likely to experience these worst outcomes than white children. The most common underlying conditions are obesity and asthma, though 32 percent of those in the hospital had no other health concerns.

As a pediatrician specializing in infectious diseases, Dr. Kathryn Moffett sees all children that enter Ruby Memorial Hospital with COVID-19. She told WVPB last month that she’s never seen a vaccinated child hospitalized with the virus, and that obesity is a common underlying condition for kids that end up in the hospital.

“I would absolutely vaccinate my children if they were that age,” Moffett said. “Just because everyone doesn’t get deadly sick from COVID doesn’t mean we don’t need people vaccinated and have immunity in our community.”

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting with support from Charleston Area Medical Center and Marshall Health.