Vaccine clinics for kids available across the lakeshore

The approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 approval for children as young as 5 years old brought parents a little more peace of mind — and a lot of questions.

County health departments are working with schools to ensure children have equal access to the vaccine, says Alison Clark, a communications specialist with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health.

The department and Ottawa Area Intermediate School District leadership meet weekly, she says. 

“We’ve tried to equip the schools with information on the pediatric clinics, so they could disseminate that to their families,” Clark says.

The information is provided in English and Spanish. 

'Patiently waiting'

“A COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 is something that parents have been patiently waiting for,” says Allegan County Health Department Medical Director
Richard Tooker. “Children will now have an opportunity to get a COVID-19 vaccine and have another layer of protection against this virus. … (V)accinations are an important tool to help reduce children’s risk of severe disease, hospitalizations, or developing long-term COVID-19 complications.”
 
Vaccinations can help protect children against COVID-19, as well as reduce disruptions to in-person learning and activities by helping curb community transmission, a statement from the Allegan County Health Department says. Similar to what was seen in adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 5 to 11 years. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild, self-limiting, and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm. 
 
For parents who have questions about the COVID-19 vaccine, itself, area health departments suggest talking to their family physician for the best medical advice.

Find vaccine clinics

In Allegan County, vaccine appointments can be found at allegancounty.org/health/calendar. In Muskegon and Ottawa counties, clinic times and locations can be found at vaccinatewestmi.com/events/. Walk-in vaccinations are available in some instances, but appointments are highly encouraged.

Many medical teams are short-staffed, and appointments are scarce, Clark says. 
 
“There are appointments available,” she says. “You just have to be patient and look around a little bit more than you usually do.”
 
Aside from county-run clinics, parents should check with pharmacies, doctors’ offices, and other organizations or vaccines.gov for other providers offering COVID-19 vaccines.

“For kids clinics we have really tried to create equitable accessible clinics around the county,” Clark says, pointing to clinics at various times of day to accommodate working parents and special, longer appointment times for families with special health care needs, for example, those who require a wheelchair or who have sensory processing issues.

Mask mandate lifted

Clark urges parents to have their children vaccinated as soon as possible, so they will be partially protected by the time they go back to school. The Ottawa County Department of Public Health is lifting its school mask mandate when schools return in early January.

Although, Ottawa County will leave mask mandates up to individual schools for the second semester, it is “encouraging” schools to consider leaving some kind of mask rule in effect, Clark says.

Muskegon County has no COVID-19 mandates in place at this time. Allegan County’s mask mandate went unsupported by its board of commissioners and sunsetted before the school year began.

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.