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Georgia healthcare systems see demand growing for kid vaccinations

The move comes as the omicron COVID variant looms

COBB COUNTY, Ga. — Healthcare systems across Georgia expect more children to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Already, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta doled out 9,323 vaccines to kids 12 and older, along with some caregivers. Children's also reported giving 5,272 shots to kids ages 5-11. 

As demand grows amid the uncertain nature of the omicron variant, healthcare systems are urging parents and guardians to book appointments to take advantage of the current vaccine supply. 

Wellstar plans to give out more than 2,000 shots to kids by January. The health system is offering pediatric COVID shots at its Acworth and East Cobb Health Parks.

Kara Short just had her seven-year-old, Bennett, vaccinated earlier this month. Bennett said she had a sore arm where the shot was inserted, but other than that, she did not experience any major side effects. Short said the delta variant and instances of pediatric deaths drove her to get the vaccine for her daughter. 

"She said it was much better for her than the flu shot," Short said. "She has cough-variant asthma, a very mild form of asthma. But still, anything with respiratory distress just makes you very concerned as a parent. You hear so much about people that are sitting on their death bed, wishing they got the vaccine, but not many folks upset having gotten the vaccine.”

Dr. Hebah Pranckun, a pediatrician with Wellstar Health System, said while experts continue to track the omicron variant, vaccination is still the best way to fight the coronavirus and all its variants. 

"There’s a lot of information out there that misleads people to think children are immune to COVID-19," Pranckun said. "We know they’re not. It’s our job to really educate families and teach them why they need to get their children vaccinated. Even if there is a minute amount of protection, why not take that over nothing?" 

RELATED: DPH debuts new vaccine breakdown for kids ages 5-9 in Georgia

Pranckun said many parents fear the unknown when it comes to vaccinating their children and lack proper education. She dispelled myths about the vaccine affecting long-term childhood development and fertility.

"Historically, whenever vaccines have long-term side effects, they typically occur within the first six to eight weeks," Pranckun said. "We’ve been giving this vaccine for over a year now. If there are long-term side effects, we should already be seeing them.”

All three of Alan Seelinger's daughters were vaccinated as soon as they were able, each convicted by a personal responsibility to help end the pandemic.

"Both from a scientific and for us, a faith perspective, it felt like the right thing to do, to love our neighbor," Seelinger said. "It’s about helping to keep our neighbors and friends and family safe as well. If they get vaccinated, it keeps others safe too.”

RELATED: Omicron variant: Don’t wait to get a booster shot, doctors say

Laurel Seelinger, 9, will soon get her second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. She will join the less than 10-percent of children ages five to nine who have gotten the vaccine, according to the Georgia Department of Public Health. Less than a third of kids 10-14 have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine, and nearly half of those 15-19 have gotten at least one shot.

Overall, 51-percent of Georgians have been fully vaccinated, while 58-percent have received at least one dose of the vaccine.

“If I get COVID, it won’t be as bad as if I did get COVID and didn’t have the vaccine, and I knew it would keep me safe," Laurel said. "To some people, it might seem just like a shot. But to me, it seems like one step closer to being almost totally safe.”

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