Widespread COVID-19 vaccination opportunities for youth age 5 to 11 kicked off Monday in northern Santa Barbara County, providing relief to parents waiting for the chance to give their kids an extra layer of protection against the virus. 

Pfizer's pediatric vaccine received federal approval for use in children last week, with distribution to providers in Santa Barbara County beginning shortly afterward. The dose given to kids age 5 to 11 is one-third the amount of the dose for those 12 and older, and they can receive a second dose three weeks after the first.

On Monday, families could be found getting their kids vaccinated at the Santa Maria Fairpark or during a school-based clinic at Kermit McKenzie Intermediate School in Guadalupe. 

Kristine and Anthony Reyes arrived to the Fairpark with their two sons Sam and Noah, ages 5 and 10 respectively, after months of waiting for them to become eligible. 

"This is ultimately the best thing we can do for our kids and the rest of the community," said Anthony, adding that he and his wife are both physicians who have seen the impacts of the virus on local residents. 

Sam, 10, said his vaccine went well, but that the shot did "feel weird." 

Over at Kermit McKenzie in Guadalupe, dozens of kids and parents already were lined up before the vaccine clinic began at 4 p.m. Around 60 people were vaccinated in the first half-hour, most of them children, said Principal Alex Jauregui.

The school was determined to offer a kid-focused vaccine clinic as soon as possible, not only to keep students safe from COVID-19 but also because current guidelines require any unvaccinated symptomatic student to be sent home for several days, he said. 

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"If they're vaccinated, they don't have to go home. They can just do a [modified] quarantine. It helps to keep them in school," Jauregui said, explaining that symptomatic students can remain in class with regular COVID-19 testing as long as they are vaccinated. 

Reyna Herrera, 8, waited restlessly at the clinic to receive her vaccine next to her mother, Jessica Deleon. When her name was called, she held tightly to her large blue stuffed dog as she received the shot, and when it was over, she happily picked a post-vaccine toy from a selection on a table. 

"I heard about [the clinic] last week, and before that I was going to call her doctor about an appointment, but this was perfect," Deleon said "My son who is 12 was able to get it, and with her I was just anticipating the day. It's just one of those things where you've gotta get it done." 

Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley is also planning to offer gift cards to vaccinated young people as an incentive. 

Pediatric vaccine opportunities will be available in Santa Maria and Guadalupe at the following times and locations: 

  • Santa Maria Fairpark — 937 S. Thornburg St., 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays to Wednesdays, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursdays;
  • Boys and Girls Club of Mid Central Coast — 901 N. Railroad Ave., 5 to 7 p.m. every Wednesday and Friday through January;
  • Orcutt Presbyterian Food Distribution — 993 Patterson Road, Santa Maria, 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Nov. 12 (walk-ins welcome)
  • Mary Buren Elementary School — 1050 Peralta St., Guadalupe, 4 to 7 p.m. Nov. 16 (walk-ins welcome)

Residents can find nearby vaccine opportunities online at myturn.ca.gov

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Santa Maria City Reporter

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Laura Place covers city government, policy and elections in Santa Maria and Santa Barbara County. Follow her on Twitter @itslaurasplace

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