FAIRWAY, KS (KCTV) -- Pharmacies across the metro, and at least one local health department, will begin offering the COVID-19 vaccine to children as young as 12 starting Thursday.

Hy-Vee, CVS and the Johnson County Department of Health and Environment made the announcement Wednesday. More pharmacies will likely follow suit.

Christina Gayman, Hy-Vee’s director of public relations explained they get the Pfizer vaccine through a federal program. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) panel gave them the green light and special guidance Wednesday night.

The CDC endorsement comes two days after the FDA gave its emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer vaccine to be used in kids as young as 12.

“The benefit is that it is going to help us get back to normal more quickly. Help our kids get back to school and all the activities that they need to be involved in,” said Dr. Steve Lauer, a pediatrician with the KU Health System.

Today, two of the patients hospitalized with COVID at their main campus are ages 10 and 17.

Kids getting very sick is rare, their doctors said, but a British study shows merely having a kid in your household increases your risk of being infected with COVID-19. The Health System’s pediatric ICU director, Dr. Michael Lewis, talks to families about it like this.

“What does it mean if your kid has COVID in your house? Not looking at it in a vacuum for just your child, but what does it mean in your home?” he asks patient’s caregivers.

What that generally means is more risk to others and more confinement, including in-person school and activities on hold.

Doctors say the bigger picture for getting kids vaccinated isn’t just about keeping them from getting sick but about keeping *overall spread in check so that the kids can keep doing what they enjoy.

“Allow them to continue to be well and not miss participation days or camp days or travel days because they have COVID 19,” KU Health System infectious disease specialist Dr. Dana Hawkinson pleaded.

He said it’s also important for kids to get other vaccinations, like HPV, and the current recommendation is to space out the COVID vaccine two weeks apart from others, so consider that in your planning.

Hy-Vee and CVS spokespeople said the youth vaccinations are available by appointment or walk-in but be sure to check first to see which locations have the Pfizer vaccine. It is the only one approved for children under the age of 18.

Gayman recommended vaccinefinder.org. You can select for the Pfizer vaccine and enter your zip code to find the nearest Hy-Vee pharmacy with that particular vaccine on hand. CVS recommends using their website or app.

“The scheduling tool will only display appointments at CVS Pharmacy locations that have the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine once the patient's age is provided,” explained CVS Senior Communications Specialist Rebecca Ferrick.

A parent or legal guardian must give written permission and children must be accompanied by an adult.

The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment will also begin providing the vaccine to the younger age group beginning Thursday. County Health officials released the following on Wednesday night:

JCDHE urges all who are age 12 and older to receive a vaccine during the COVID-19 vaccination hours that includes evening, weekend and walk-in availability. Children age 15 and younger receiving a COVID-19 vaccination must be accompanied by an adult. A parent/guardian is preferable; however, the parent/guardian may designate a non-parent adult to be present at the time of vaccination if the parent/guardian is unavailable. A signed parental consent form is required and is available at https://www.dispenseassist.net/Covid.html.

Appointments can be made at jocogov.org/covid-19-vaccine. You do not need to be a resident of Johnson County to utilize this vaccination service.

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