Seven-year-old Gael Coreas stuck out his left arm fearlessly to receive his first Covid-19 shot at a health clinic in the nation's capital on Wednesday, wincing briefly as cameras flashed to capture the moment.
Coreas was in the first cohort of young children to be inoculated as the United States on Wednesday began administering the Covid-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11, the latest group to become eligible for the shots that provide protection against the illness to recipients and those around them, reports Reuters.
"We are very excited," Coreas' mother Alma Benavides, a 37-year-old small business owner, said at Mary Center's in Washington. "We waited a long time and it’s very special for me."
On Tuesday, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the Pfizer Inc /BioNTech SE shot for broad use in that age group, four days after it was authorised by the US Food and Drug Administration.
Only a limited amount of the initial 15 million shots being distributed will be available on Wednesday. They are expected to be more widely accessible at paediatrician's offices, children's hospitals and pharmacies next week.
Maria Stout brought her daughters Celeste, 9, and Victoria, 11, to Rady Children's Hospital in San Diego for their first Covid-19 shots on Wednesday morning, after a friend told her the hospital's website had open appointments.
Stout passed along the tip to other parents, some of whom were unable to book appointments, "so it was very fortunate that my friend shared that information with me early," she said.
The big national pharmacy chains, Walgreens Boots Alliance , CVS Health and Rite Aid are among those offering appointments for this weekend.
"We have had significant demand and scheduling already," CVS Chief Executive Karen Lynch said in an interview on Wednesday. CVS expects to have 2,500 stores administering paediatric shots beginning this weekend.
While about 58 per cent of Americans are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, some 28 million children under 12 have not been eligible until now.
The 10-microgram shot of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine authorised for school-age kids - a third the strength given to adolescents and adults - offers protection from the Delta variant of the virus that has led to thousands of paediatric hospitalisations.
'People Will Be More Comfortable'
Dr Monica Gandhi, an infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco, said the approval for this age group was especially important because they are school-aged children.
The vaccine, shown to be more than 90 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic infection in children, provides an avenue for fewer quarantines or school closures and more normal activities and freedoms.
"In elementary schools, it's been really difficult for them to be totally normal without this vaccine because teachers have been worried about transmission," Gandhi said.
The rollout, although too late for these children to be fully protected by Thanksgiving later this month, should make year-end holiday celebrations safer.