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Southern Tier schools roll out COVID-19 vaccine clinics for younger kids

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VESTAL, NY (WSKG) — Last week, the CDC authorized emergency use of the COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-11. The lower-dose Pfizer vaccine has arrived at health departments and pediatricians’ offices across the region.

WSKG went to Broome County’s first school vaccine clinic to ask kids how it went.

Stryker Reese III and his little sister Valora were some of the first kids in Broome County to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

"It didn’t hurt that much, it was just like a little poke," Stryker said.

Stryker’s dad said he signed the two younger kids up the first chance he got. Their older sister is 13 and got vaccinated earlier this year.

Chelsea Reome-Nedlik is a public health educator at the Broome County Health Department. She said the vaccine can protect younger kids against COVID-19 … even if they’ve previously had the virus. 

"Natural immunity is not 100% protective, and it provides less consistent protection compared to vaccination," Reome-Nedlik said. "The other pro of getting your immunity through vaccination is that you don't have any of the risks that come along with being infected with COVID."

Reome-Nedlik said that aside from the protection the vaccine can offer kids and their communities, vaccinated kids can stay in school if they come in contact with someone who tests positive.

Kyle Skinner is the principal at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in Binghamton. He said he's relieved that the vaccine is now available to the younger students at his school.

"So many of our students have had to spend time at home, due to quarantines," Skinner said. "As a school, it's our mission to make sure that we're educating the students to the best of our ability, and we can do that best here in school with kids in the building."

Up until now, younger kids had to be pulled out of school to quarantine if they came in contact with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19.

That has led to a lot of lost classroom time for kids like Stryker and Valora. Their dad said that his kids have already had to quarantine a couple times. 

When asked if it hurt to get the vaccine, Stryker and Valora said it hurt a little bit, but not any more than a normal shot would. He and his sister both said that kids and grown-ups shouldn't be afraid to get the shot.

Parents looking to get their kids vaccinated against COVID-19 can call their child’s school or their county health department to see if there’s a vaccine clinic scheduled nearby. Many pediatricians in the region are also offering the vaccine free of charge to kids and their parents, and can answer any questions about the vaccine.