Madyson Knudsen wasn’t eligible to be vaccinated against COVID-19 for the first 20 months of the pandemic. That changed this week.
The 10-year-old received the first of a two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at the Kenai Public Health Center on Friday, just three days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the go-ahead for 5- to 11-year-olds to get the shot, which shows a 91% efficacy rate in preventing the virus for the age group.
Knudsen, a fifth grader at Mountain View Elementary School, was the last in her family to be vaccinated against COVID.
“I just felt a little poke and it didn’t hurt,” she said after getting her vaccine.
Knudsen said she was excited to get the shot and hopes the vaccine will keep her from getting the virus.
Her dad, Steve Girgus, said the family has been anticipating CDC approval so Knudsen would be able to get the shot.
“We’re looking forward to everybody being vaccinated so we can take trips and do different things and not have to worry so much about it,” Girgus said.
The pandemic broke out when Knudsen was fourth grade, Girgus said, which has made the last two academic years tough.
“At the very beginning of fourth grade it just all shut down,” he said. “And then I home-schooled her for like three and a half months before they got back to school.”
Knudsen said she likes being in the classroom more than being at home.
Sherra Pritchard, the public health nurse who gave Knudsen her first pediatric dose Friday, said the new CDC approval has added to the virus mitigation strategies already in place.
“It’s just another tool in our toolbox,” she said. “Our kids are pretty resilient, that’s for sure.”
The clinic received the official medical directive to administer pediatric Pfizer vaccines on Thursday around 1 p.m. By 5 p.m. that evening, there were already 11 appointments made for kids ages 5 to 11.
“I just recommend to parents, read through the fact sheets, weigh the risk and benefits, and if the benefits of getting the COVID vaccine outweigh the risk in your mind, move forward,” Pritchard said. Knudsen was her second pediatric patient on Friday morning.
Pritchard has been a public health nurse in Kenai for eight years, and she said her job has “completely” changed as a result of the pandemic.
“We’ve really just been focused on COVID for the last 20 months,” Pritchard said. “I’m hopeful to kind of get back to where we were doing … all those other things that we were able to do prior.”
Pritchard said there are a lot of complex issues that need addressing — including structures like homelessness and transportation — that she’s eager to get back to.
“I’m definitely kind of missing that portion of being a public health nurse,” she said.
Girgus said he appreciates the health care workers at the center and is relieved that his youngest is finally able to get vaccinated against COVID.
“We’re just happy that they decided to come out with the shot for the younger kids early,” he said. “We are big advocates of immunization.”