Keith Grant, APRN and Hartford HealthCare senior director of infection prevention Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Providers across Connecticut are gearing up to conduct COVID-19 vaccine clinics this weekend for children ages 5 to 11 years old, a group of about 277,000 kids that became eligible for vaccination last week.

Children as young as 5 became eligible last Tuesday to receive a pediatric dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. During an event that evening, Hartford HealthCare vaccinated six young children, believed to be among the first in the nation, and clinics have taken place since then. 

In its weekly update Thursday, the state Public Health Department did not have a figure for how many young children had so far received the shot. But health care providers were expected to vaccinate hundreds of children over the weekend at several large clinics scheduled around the state.

On Sunday, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center will host an indoor clinic at Dunkin’ Donuts Park in Hartford. Meanwhile, Hartford HealthCare will conduct six clinics on Saturday at locations in Bridgeport, Hartford, New Britain, Norwich, Torrington and Wethersfield. 

During a press conference Thursday, Eric Arlia, senior pharmacy director of Hartford HealthCare, said the clinics were timed around the coming holiday season. Arlia said providers would administer a total of about 2,200 doses at the clinics and appointments were still available. 

“We picked this weekend intentionally because it sort of circumvents Thanksgiving weekend,” Arlia said. “The kids who come on Saturday, we do a dose two on Dec. 4, which is the weekend after Thanksgiving. … Getting dose two on the fourth of December should mean that they have full immunity built up in time for Christmas.”

Eric Arlia, senior pharmacy director of Hartford HealthCare, and Luke Bronin, mayor of Hartford Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Keith Grant, APRN and senior director of infection prevention, said it was important for residents to be vaccinated prior to the holidays if possible. Although rare, Grant said COVID-19 posed a risk to some young children. Even in cases where kids had little or no reaction to the virus, they could still spread to an immunocompromised child or an elderly family member. 

During the press conference, Grant was asked if such transmission from a child could “kill Grandma.” 

“Hundred percent,” Grant answered. “That’s a hard question. It’s a hard statement, but absolutely. The disease kills and a disease is passed from person to person and if someone is infected but asymptomatic, that’s a person that’s the most viable vector. This is the person who has the highest likelihood of passing it on to multiple people to include people that you can kill.” 

Based on the number of appointments, Arlia described demand for the newly eligible age group to be strong and steady, though maybe not as pressing as demand had been for some of the older age groups. He said providers expected to have a better sense of the ongoing demand after this weekend’s clinics. 

Some young children vaccinated during clinical trials saw mild side effects following the shot similar to those experienced by adults, according to a CDC press release last week. Anecdotally, Grant said children seemed to shake off side effects quicker than adults. Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said his two children did not experience side effects. 

“As far as I could tell, they didn’t miss a beat. They didn’t complain about — they didn’t even complain about soreness of the arm after the three seconds after they got the shot,” Bronin said. 

Heather Quinn Credit: Hugh McQuaid / CTNewsJunkie

Heather Quinn, a Durham resident with two sons, said her 10-year-old son would receive the vaccine at a clinic on Saturday. She said he contracted COVID in late September and was a rare case in which a young child developed severe reactions. 

“He had every single symptom. It’s such a long haul. It was probably two or three long weeks,” Quinn said. “He still now has a little bit of what I guess they would call ‘COVID brain’ and sometimes forgets his teachers’ names in school.”

Connecticut’s COVID positivity level declined somewhat Thursday to 2.42% after two days during which it was elevated above 3%. Statewide, 238 patients were hospitalized with the virus and more than 70% of them were not fully vaccinated, according to the Department of Public Health.