Genesee County, MI—For Rachel Florence-Spaetzel, it was a relief to have her 2-year-old twins, Cody and Alex Spaetzel, receive their COVID-19 vaccines. Her 6-year-old son, Jay Spaetzel, has received his second Pfizer COVID vaccine. Both Florence-Spaetzel and her husband have been boosted with the Pfizer vaccines. And on July 20, 2022, the twins got their first Pfizer vaccines at Genesee County Health Department’s (GCHD) walk-in clinic at the Central Church of the Nazarene. 

“Being able to vaccinate them finally feels like the last piece of the puzzle coming together,” Florence-Spaetzel said. 

In mid-June, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the Moderna and Pfizer COVID vaccines for children as young as 6 months old. Since then, GCHD has expanded its rollout of COVID vaccinations to this age group in clinics across the county. 

Dr. Gwendolyn Reyes, a pediatrician at Hurley Medical Center, said the FDA’s decision is critical for safeguarding the Flint community against COVID. 

“The vaccine is such an important tool to protect ourselves,” Reyes wrote in an email. “It helps decrease the risk of getting the virus, the severity of the virus, [the] risk of hospitalizations and we can now offer it to this vulnerable age group.”

The FDA has broadened the emergency use authorization of the Moderna COVID vaccine to individuals who are 6 months old through the age of 17. The vaccine is administered as a primary series of two doses. When it comes to the Pfizer COVID vaccine, the authorization extends the use of the vaccination to individuals between 6 months old and the age of 4. The vaccine is administered as a primary series of three doses. The vaccine schedules are different for those who are moderately or severely immunocompromised.

Janice Lewis (left) fills out paperwork alongside her granddaughter Amore’ Jackson (right), who is 3 years old, at the Genesee County Health Department’s walk-in clinic at the Central Church of the Nazarene for Jackson’s COVID-19 vaccination on July 20, 2022. (Nicholas Chan | Flint Beat)

Meanwhile, Reyes noted that the vaccines are safe and effective, and she encouraged families to consult their doctors if they have questions about COVID vaccinations for their children. 

In Genesee County, 0.5 percent of children under the age of 5 have received at least one COVID shot as of this week. According to JoAnne Herman, a pediatric nurse and COVID-19 nurse coordinator at GCHD, COVID vaccination appointments at GCHD are available for individuals ages 6 months and above. Families can also check with their healthcare providers and local pharmacies for eligibility and availability. COVID shots are offered at walk-in clinics provided by GCHD and community organizations as well. 

JoAnne Herman (left), a pediatric nurse and COVID-19 nurse coordinator at the Genesee County Health Department (GCHD), speaks to Rachel Martin (right), the mother of 4-year-old Everett Martin (center right), at GCHD’s walk-in clinic at the Central Church of the Nazarene on July 20, 2022. (Nicholas Chan | Flint Beat)

“We have made ourselves very accessible and available throughout Genesee County to provide [the COVID] vaccine for children,” Herman said of GCHD. 

“We also work in coordination with their local primary care physician, in most cases that’s their pediatrician, to also provide education and information so that parents trying to learn more about the vaccine can make a good, informed decision,” she continued. 

Florence-Spaetzel and Rachel Martin, a mother of two, said they are grateful for the county’s efforts in offering accessible sites for COVID vaccinations. On July 20, 2022, Martin’s 4-year-old children, Stella and Everett Martin, received their second Moderna COVID vaccines at GCHD’s walk-in clinic at the Central Church of the Nazarene.

It was “a Moderna family day,” Martin said, as both herself and her husband received their second Moderna COVID booster shots at the clinic that day. And the family’s vaccinations have helped a great deal in easing some of their worries about COVID, she noted. 

“It’s been difficult at times to know that there are certain risks that are unavoidable,” Martin said. “But knowing that we have another layer of protection has been everything for us. It hasn’t necessarily changed a lot of behaviors for us, but it’s given us a lot of peace of mind.”

Visit GCHD’s website for updates and further information on COVID. Individuals without access to the website can reach GCHD’s COVID-19 Call Center at 810-344-4800. 

COVID vaccination appointments at GCHD can be scheduled at 810-237-4569. 

Nicholas Chan

Nicholas is Flint Beat’s public health and education reporter. He joins the team as he graduates from Santa Clara University, Calif. Nicholas has previously reported on dementia and brain health, as...

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