By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

After a review by the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, California has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

The state has already begun to roll out vaccines, joining forces with about 500 organizations to distribute 1.2 million doses of COVID-19 shots to the estimated 3.2 million kids now eligible to receive them.

According to the California Department of Public Health, there are an estimated 171,000 Black children in that age range.

“The truth is we have lost 72,000 Californians to COVID. We have been looking for a miracle, for solutions, to help us get through this pandemic,” said Dr. Mark Ghaly, Secretary of the California Health and Human Services Agency, during a news briefing with ethnic media outlets from across the state.

“The vaccine represents the best form of that ability to address this – to help us get through what has been a very challenging nearly two years that has claimed way too many Californians’ lives and affected their livelihoods,” he added.

Ghaly addressed the fear of two heart-related reactions – Myocarditis and Pericarditis – doctors have found in adults and teenagers who have taken COVID vaccines. The conditions occur when fluids leak into the heart muscle (Mycarditis) or the lining around the heart (pericarditis)

due to the immune system responding to antigens or infections in the body.

“We seldom see these important reactions occur as a result of the vaccines,” Ghaly said. “And when we do, they are often resolving themselves without significant intervention. But, most importantly, the risk of having more serious cardiac consequences from getting infected with COVID are real and well documented for young people.

Ghaly said of the estimated 4,000 children that participated in national trials of the vaccine, there were no cases of myocarditis or pericarditis found.

Gov. Gavin Newsom says vaccinating children is a step in the right direction.

“Vaccines are how we end this pandemic, and they’re how we keep our kids safe – it’s time to get our children the protection they need from this deadly virus, especially as we head into the winter season,” said Newsom.

Despite the governor’s positive outlook, many parents across the country remain hesitant to put their 5-11 kids at the front of the line for the vaccination. According to a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) September study, 24 % of parents say their kids will “definitely not” get the shot; 32 % say they will “wait and see;” and another 34 % say their children will take the shot “right away.”

California Surgeon General Dr. Nadine Burke Harris took to Twitter to back up the governor’s message.

“Kids have been uniquely vulnerable to the disruptions of this pandemic. Now, it’s their turn to join their loved ones in having peace of mind from being protected against COVID-19. Every vaccination is one step closer to putting COVID-19 behind us. Let’s move forward, together,” Harris said.

The state has designated 4,000 vaccination sites at schools and after-school programs to help administer the vaccines. Parents of schoolchildren and people who live in surrounding communities can also drop by the centers to get their shots.

Newsom also provided an update on the current vaccination rate in California.

“California is leading the nation in vaccinations with 54 million administered and 87 % of the eligible population with at least one dose, and we’re moving swiftly to implement a robust and equitable vaccination program that will cover this newly eligible age group,” he said.

To check eligibility or make an appointment for a COVID shot, visit MyTurn.CA.gov

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation.