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Pfizer Vaccine Approved For Some Minors, But Parents Remain Hesitant

Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine
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Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine

Pfizer Vaccine Approved For Some Minors, But Parents Remain Hesitant

Federal health officials approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds Monday. Urban counties are scheduling appointments for interested families, but access to the vaccine continues to be an issue in rural areas.

More urban counties like Flathead and Gallatin have already been signing up children 12 to 15 years old for shots in anticipation of the approval. These counties have access to the proper ultra-cold freezers that can store the Pfizer vaccine. 

It’s the only shot that’s been approved for use in minors and it’s been a struggle for rural counties to access. Sheridan County Public Health Director Sherri Marriage says that’s not the only problem.

“We haven’t had any interest from age groups 12 to 17 at this time.”

Kaiser Family Foundation survey data showthat three in 10 parents plan to get their 12-to-15-year-olds vaccinated as soon as possible, while a quarter say they will wait and see how the vaccine is working. An equal proportion of parents say they definitely won’t get their children vaccinated.

According to census data, Montanans 18 and younger make up about a fifth of the state population. Minors 16 and older have been eligible for a shot since April 1, but as of late last month, state health officials said under a quarter of Montanans younger than 20 had received their first dose.

Blaine County Health Officer Janna McPherson-Hauer says interested Hi Line families have been lucky that the Fort Belknap Tribal Health Department has been able to store and provide the Pfizer vaccine to multiple counties. But she says hesitancy has been a struggle with parents.

“We’ll even talk to parents who will say, ‘I’ll get it, but there’s just still too many unknowns for my child.’ So I think it just becomes another area for us to focus on with education."

Montana Public Radio reached out to the state health department to ask whether it has plans to provide more access to Pfizer vaccines in rural areas so families who are interested can get their children a shot, but did not hear back by deadline.

According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 42 percent of Montanans have at least one dose of a COVID vaccine.

Copyright 2021 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Aaron is Montana Public Radio's Flathead reporter.