CLEVELAND — We've reached another threshold in the effort to end this deadly pandemic. Starting Wednesday, children ages 5 to 11 can get vaccinated for COVID-19.
The final approval from the CDC comes as Ohio reports more than 2,000 children under 18 have been hospitalized, with 15 of them dying from the virus.
The first shipments of the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine are already in Ohio.
"We are seeing light at the end of a very long tunnel," said Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff, Ohio Department of Health Director.
Vanderhoff said 367,000 doses will be available in the initial rollout.
"There is going to be ample opportunity for people to get this vaccine in a timely way," said Vanderhoff.
However, there's lingering concern among many parents.
"If you're worried as a parent about long-term side effects, you really should be concerned about the risk of COVID," said Dr. Patty Manning, Cincinnati Children's Hospital.
The virus and not the vaccine greatly increases a child's risk for myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart muscle, according to Manning.
"So, if you're worried about myocarditis in your child, you don't want them to get COVID. And if you don't want them to get COVID, you want them to be vaccinated and the risk of myocarditis is exceptionally low," said Manning.
Dr. Manning also addressed reproductive concerns.
"There's no evidence whatsoever that fertility is affected by these vaccines," said Manning.
Pediatricians said they're prepared to help parents with these concerns and reassure them the vaccine route is the way to go.
"I've seen the research. I've watched the science, and I know it is both highly effective and safe," said Dr. Michelle Drifts, Cornerstone Pediatrics.
With the holidays quickly approaching, parents are encouraged to start vaccinating their children now.
"Vaccine protection doesn't come instantly," said Vanderhoff. It takes about five weeks from the first shot.
"Until your child gains maximum protection from the vaccine, we continue to encourage students to wear masks in school," said Vanderoff.
Beyond children masking up in school, all Ohioans are encouraged to stay the course until this new age group is better protected.
"I can't beg anymore to really make the right choice when it comes to exercising all of the elements of the toolkit, right? Keeping your distance, washing your hands, getting vaccinated," said Dr. Michael Forbes, Akron General Children's Hospital.