Hamilton County to begin administering COVID-19 shots for young children

Pfizer shots available for ages 6 months through 4 years; Moderna approved for 6 months through 5 years

COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months are now available in the Chattanooga region, giving parents who eagerly waited 18 months since the first COVID-19 vaccines for adults arrived in Hamilton County an opportunity to better protect their children from the coronavirus.

The Hamilton County Health Department announced Friday that staff will begin administering Pfizer COVID-19 shots to children ages 6 months through 4 years old at all Hamilton County Health clinics beginning Monday.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading medical organizations now recommend people 6 months to 5 years of age receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The department will only be administering Pfizer shots to that age group.

"The health department has been receiving calls from parents asking when we will begin giving the COVID-19 vaccine to the youngest members of our community. We are pleased to announce we are now vaccinating this age group to help protect them from severe COVID illness and hospitalization," Hamilton County Health Department Administrator Sabrina Novak said in a news release. "We also understand that many in our community have hesitancies or concerns regarding these vaccines. We highly encourage parents and legal guardians to reach out to their pediatricians with any questions they may have."

(READ MORE: Tennessee House leaders ask Gov. Lee not to promote COVID-19 vaccinations for children under 5)

The arrival of COVID-19 vaccines in Hamilton County comes just days after top Tennessee House Republican leaders asked Gov. Bill Lee to block state health officials from distributing, promoting or recommending COVID-19 vaccinations for children younger than 5 years of age.

In response, the Tennessee Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement supporting COVID-19 vaccination in all eligible children.

"Vaccines remain the best resource available against COVID-19, and it has been shown to be a safe and effective tool against preventing serious illness in children," the statement reads. "Unfortunately, over 30,000 children under 5 years of age have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and more than 500 children in this age group have died from the disease."

(READ MORE: Hamilton County student survives rare syndrome linked to COVID-19)

Novak said community members can also call the health department's COVID-19 hotline, which is always staffed with an on-call nurse at 423-209-8383 if they have questions about the vaccines.

In order for minors to be vaccinated, the health department requires a parent or legal guardian is present during the appointment. Parents should bring a current, valid photo identification, and legal guardians should bring proof of guardianship.

In addition, Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are now approved for anyone 6 months of age through 5 years old.

"These vaccines are available in our community through various providers, including some local pediatricians' offices. Please visit vaccines.gov to find a vaccine closest to you," the health department release said.

A full list of where the health department is administering COVID-19 vaccines, including which type of vaccine, is available online at vaccine.hamiltontn.gov.

Contact Elizabeth Fite at efite@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6673. Follow her on Twitter @ecfite.