MMC Pediatrics prepares to vaccinate younger children against COVID-19


MURFREESBORO, Tenn. (WKRN) — Murfreesboro Medical Clinic Pediatrics started a waitlist for parents who want to get the COVID-19 vaccine for younger children. People are already going online to sign up as the clinic hopes to have the shots available next week.

“There are a few steps. It has to be approved by the ACIP, CDC, and then the Tennessee Department of Health, and so we’re waiting on that last approval to get it. We’ve already placed our order for it, and the health department has approved our order,” said Pediatrician Dr. Amanda Gammel. “As soon as the Tennessee Department of Health says we’re good to go, they’ll ship it to us. And usually, we get it the next day. So our hope is we’ll have it in the office and be ready to start giving it as early as next week.”

She said as soon as they know the shots are shipped, they’ll turn the waitlist into appointments and start contacting parents to get their kids vaccinated. They’re taking lessons about logistics from the adult COVID-19 vaccine rollout into the one for younger children.

“All the paperwork and everything ready to go so that we can get as many kids in and out as possible, and then also having that waiting period where we kind of watch them and we have space for them,” she said. “It really is just a lot of logistics. But our adult vaccine clinic felt very seamless. And so we hope that the vaccine clinic for the kids will be as well.”

She’s hoping the vaccine for younger children will help avoid another surge in COVID-19 cases as seen earlier in the year. Dr. Gammel said that while children don’t tend to get really sick from COVID there is about 1% that do end up requiring hospitalization or having long-term effects like long haul COVID, or inflammation of the heart muscles.

“We do know that kids, because their symptoms are so mild, sometimes they can have COVID or a lot of times they can have COVID, and we don’t really know it, and then they can spread it to their older siblings, their parents, their grandparents,” Dr. Gammel explained. “So by getting them vaccinated, it would decrease the chance of them getting COVID, which will decrease the chance of them being contagious and exposing it to those family members or other vulnerable people in the community.”

During the surge of cases from the delta variant when students returned to school this year, Dr. Gammel said they were averaging 500-600 kids per day at their clinic.

“We were actually having to turn people away just because we didn’t have enough time or staff to see everybody, we had to shut down our walk-in a few times because the waiting room was just too full. The percentage was about 20 to 25% positivity rate at one point, which was just huge,” Dr. Gammel said. “I think we’re hopeful that as we get the vaccine, we get more kids vaccinated that we won’t keep having huge surges like that, that kind of overwhelm the medical system.”

She feels more parents will be willing to get the vaccine for their children after seeing the success in teens and adults.

“I will say more and more, I’m starting to get the question of ‘do you personally recommend it?’ where I think with the older group, it was more, ‘is it safe? I’m not sure I trust it.’ And now I feel like the parents are starting to get a little bit more comfortable with it. And that their number one question is, ‘what do you recommend? Do you recommend this for your kids?’ Dr. Gammel said. “And that’s what I’ve been telling them: As you know, I’m going to get it for my children, the minute that it’s available, and so I wouldn’t recommend anything for their kids that I wouldn’t do for my own.”

She said she expects fewer side effects with the shots for younger children as she’s noticed even teens have had fewer side effects compared to adults getting the vaccine. She adds that this may be because kids are more exposed to viruses and are more used to getting vaccines more so than adults. Dr. Gammel said parents should watch to see if their child has a higher fever after getting the vaccine and it’s not being lowered by medicine like children’s Tylenol or Motrin.

“I would say most if not all, pediatricians are recommending it. I would just encourage parents if they have any concerns, or any hesitancy to talk to their pediatrician about those concerns. There’s a lot of stuff out there on the internet and I always discouraged parents from googling anything or reading on social media,” said Dr. Gammel. “If you have questions, that’s what we’re here for. Call your pediatrician, talk to him at your child’s checkup, and just, you know, ask any questions, any hesitancies any worries that you may be having.”

You’re advised to check with your child’s pediatrician to see when their office will be administering the vaccine. This weekend, CVS and Walgreens will begin vaccinating children and are already taking appointments. Metro Public Health will start administering the shots for younger kids starting Monday. Children ages 5 to 11 can receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at several Metro Nashville schools beginning Monday.

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