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NC health officials talk "parent to parent" about the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children

NC Health Secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen is sharing her family COVID-19 vaccine story in a new public service announcement to encourage other parents to have their children vaccinated.

More than 24,000 children in North Carolina have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine according to state health secretary Dr. Mandy Cohen.  The lower-dose Pfizer COVID vaccine got the green light for 5- to 11-year-olds late last week.   

"The data shows that the lower dose of the Pfizer COVID vaccine protects children from serious illness and there were no serious side effects," said Dr. Cohen during a media briefing on Wednesday .


Cohen said her daughters got their vaccine last weekend and she previewed a public service announcement that shares her family’s COVID vaccine experience, in hopes of inspiring others.

“As a parent, having a safe vaccine to protect my young daughters from COVID-19 is a huge relief," she said.  “Like most kids my daughters don’t like shots.  But we talked as a family about the reasons it was important to protect them from COVID, just like it is important to protect them from  flu and other childhood illnesses like chickenpox.” 

Even though the risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 is rare for children, Cohen said it's important for them to get vaccinated because severe illness is still possible.

“Now 5 to 11-year-olds, you know I’m a happy mama this week!” exclaimed  Buncombe County  Health Director Stacie Saunders as she wrapped up a briefing with local media in Western North Carolina that followed the NCDHHS update.  Saunders  told reporters the health department administered about 180 first doses to the new eligible age group on Friday, the first day the shot was offered by the health department. She said an additional 90 parents and caregivers received their first, second,           

Credit BCHHS
Buncombe County Health Director Stacey Saunders gets her first COVID-19 vaccine in January, 2021.  Saunders says she’s planning to get the COVID booster at the same time her 10-year-old is getting his first vaccine, “so he feels like he’s got somebody there going through the same thing with him.”

or booster dose  at the BCHHS COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic located at 40 Coxe Avenue. 

“We saw what I’m calling buddy system, a parent or caregiver with their kid, also getting whatever dose they needed, which is good and what I’m planning to do with my ten-year-old as well, “ says Saunders, who pointed out that the buddy system is also a good strategy to help calm children who are feeling anxious about getting a shot.  

“Just let them know what they can expect to see, especially if you are choosing a clinic that is different what they are used to, like the pediatricians office,” says Saunders when asked about tips for preparing children, especially those who may be getting their shot at a mass vaccination site.

“Share with them that it may be a much bigger space and they are going to see a lot of folks, maybe even somebody they know since many sites are at local schools.  It’s probably going to be a little louder than their doctor’s office. They will have a spot where they can sit and talk to a nurse or medical professional who will tell them about the vaccine. And then they will get a shot just like they do at their doctor’s office, and when it goes in, yep, it’s going to smart, but that goes away fairly quickly. And then just preparing for them for the wait afterwards, I would say as a parent you might want to bring something that is going to distract them, coloring sheets or technology that can help distract them while they are waiting.”

Saunders says parents and caregivers should let kids know that their arm might hurt a bit afterwards.  She says there is no need to premedicate, in fact it is not advised,  but after their shot if a child feels a little “puny” then Saunders says over-the-counter pain medicine for children can be used as directed.

“The vaccine provides a safe, tested way to help keep school-aged children healthy and can help get kids back to safely being with their family and friends which will be especially important during the upcoming holidays,” she says, “we’re very excited at my house!”  

Saunders stresses that like adults, children are not considered fully vaccinated until after their second vaccine.

Both Saunders and Cohen acknowledged that some  parents may be nervous about the vaccine and encouraged them to reach out to pediatricians and other health providers to get fact-based information about the COVID vaccine for children.NCDHHS hosted a fireside chat to provide answers to frequently asked questions. Buncombe County hosted a Facebook event for parents.


COVID-19 Vaccine events will take place on Saturdays from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the following Asheville City and Buncombe County schools:

  • Nov. 13 – Asheville Middle School
  • Nov. 20 – North Buncombe High School 
  • Dec. 4 – Clyde A. Erwin High (BCHHS) 
  • Dec. 4 – T.C. Roberson High School
  • Dec. 11 – Charles D. Owen High 
  • Dec. 11 – A.C. Reynolds High School

All events are open to everyone 5 years and older, no appointment necessary  Visit www.buncombeready.org for more information.

Henderson county is offering the vaccine at the Henderson County of Public Health’s vaccine clinic Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Blue Ridge Mall.     Appointments for children ages 5 to 11 and their families  can be scheduled online at www.hendersoncountync.gov/health or by calling 828-585-4700.   Along with county health departments, pharmacies and health care providers are also offering the pediatric vaccine.  

To find a COVID vaccine provider near you go to  www.yourspotyourshot.nc.gov or call the NC Vaccine Help Center at 888-675-4567.

Helen Chickering is a host and reporter on Blue Ridge Public Radio. She joined the station in November 2014.