(CNN) - Nine-year-old Parson Harrington had to isolate more than most during this pandemic -- and the lung transplant recipient hopes the Covid-19 vaccine she received in Houston on Wednesday is her ticket to relief and freedom.

Parson is one of numerous children ages 5-11 who lined up for a dose around the country on the first full day that kids in this age group were eligible in the US after the CDC gave its endorsement Tuesday.

Parson's mother registered her for a shot Tuesday night, and then drove her more than two hours to Texas Children's Hospital in Houston for the inoculation Wednesday morning.

Because Parson had a lung transplant as an infant, she was advised to stay away from in-person class and, generally, the public over fears she was more susceptible to harm from Covid-19.

"It's almost like it's a first step to hopefully get living again," her mother, Jennifer Harrington, told CNN.

The US Food and Drug Administration authorized Pfizer's vaccine for this younger age group last week, giving the company the first emergency use authorization for a Covid-19 shot for younger kids in the United States.

The FDA's and CDC's moves opened eligibility to 28 million children. Availability will be limited for the first few days, as venues cannot simply use the vaccines they already have for ages 12 and up.

The vaccines authorized for ages 5-11 are reformulated at one-third the dose of what people 12 years and older get. They're also repackaged with a new orange top, so it will be difficult to mix up with the adult vaccine.

The country's vaccine program for ages 5-11 will be "running at full strength" by next week, and the number of sites offering the shots will increase throughout the month, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients has said.

But many venues still were offering doses by appointment Wednesday. And the demand at the Texas Children's Hospital system has been tremendous, an official there said.

By Wednesday, some 37,000 Covid-19 vaccine appointments had been booked through the week of Thanksgiving for kids ages 5-11, said Jermaine Monroe, co-chair of a Covid-19 task force for the system.

"We've not experienced anything like this," Monroe said of the demand for vaccines. "We've planned for it, and we're glad ... because many people thought that there would not be high demand."

President Joe Biden called the expanded eligibility a turning point in the battle against the pandemic.

"It will allow parents to end months of anxious worrying about their kids, and reduce the extent to which children spread the virus to others. It is a major step forward for our nation in our fight to defeat the virus," Biden said Tuesday in a statement.

Texas' health services department says its state alone expects to receive 1.3 million doses for ages 5-11 over the next week, more than 400,000 of which already had arrived by Wednesday.

Pharmacy chain Walgreens has said it will begin offering the shots for ages 5-11 by appointment starting Saturday in select stores around the country -- and that parents could start scheduling those appointments Wednesday.

Like adults, children ages 5-11 who receive the Pfizer vaccine are advised to get a second dose at least 21 days after their first.

Opening up eligibility for the vaccine to more children marks a hopeful milestone in the pandemic. But it also comes as the nation is yet again reminded of the gravity of the crisis, with the US passing 750,000 Covid-19 deaths Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

'We didn't hesitate,' father says

In New York City's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, the MiDoctor urgent care clinic began inoculating children ages 5-11 Wednesday morning, having already received 900 doses for that age group.

Jose Mujica and his wife had their two children receive the vaccine there Wednesday.

"We didn't hesitate," he said, "because ... we understand that doing this is part of keeping everybody safe -- not just us safe, but grandparents safe."

Ryan Steinberg had his daughter, Avani, 7, vaccinated there Wednesday.

"She's excited to go to the movies again, to go to the playground (and) run around" without a mask and "just have a normal life again," Steinberg told CNN.

The clinic's co-founder, Dr. Christina Zhang, gave her 8- and 9-year-old daughters the vaccine Wednesday morning before they went to school.

"They understand the importance of this vaccine, and they want to have their life back to normal," Zhang said.

"They want to have play dates; they want to go to family gatherings; they want their school to be back to normal. So, they are so eager to get the vaccine."

In Houston, Parson, the 9-year-old lung transplant recipient, teared up as she talked about receiving the vaccine.

"I am looking forward to going back to school in person, because I miss my friends very, very much," she said. "And I want to see my (extended) family" in Dallas.

Kids who already had Covid-19 still should be vaccinated, CDC director says

Children who already had Covid-19 still should be vaccinated, and they need both doses, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday.

Studies show it's safe for them to get the shots and will boost their protection, Walensky told a White House Covid-19 briefing.

"We have data from the trials -- in, in fact, several, about 10% of people in the clinical trials for the kids -- had previous infection, and we have seen that that bolsters their protection and it is safe to do," Walensky said.

"We do know that after nearly all infectious diseases, you have some protection from getting that infection again, but we don't really know how long that lasts or how robust it is."

The CDC says 745 children and teenagers under 18 have died of Covid-19.

"The chance that a child will have severe Covid, require hospitalization or develop a long-term complication like MIS-C remains low, but still the risk is too high and too devastating to our children, and far higher than for many other diseases for which we vaccinate children," Walensky said Tuesday.

Children now make up a disproportionate number of new Covid-19 cases, according to a report published Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics -- accounting for a quarter of all the new cases last week.

The US eventually may see more than one manufacturer offer Covid-19 vaccines to children.

Moderna's vaccine is currently authorized for people 18 and older. The company requested emergency use authorization for its vaccine for people ages 12-17 in June, but FDA authorization has not yet been extended to that age group.

Moderna last month also said initial results of a Phase 2/3 trial showed a smaller dose of its product was well-tolerated and generated a robust immune response in children ages 6-11. Moderna said it would submit the data to the FDA, European Medicines Agency and other global regulators "in the near term."


™ & © 2021 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

CNN's Rosa Flores, Kacey Cherry, Brynn Gingras, Lauren DelValle and Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.

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(4) comments

Brian C. Duffy

Real (?) Lifestyles of the Daily SOLs

Brian Duffy ~~ Tariffville, CT


The tantrum continues..


Remember these words months from now when nothing has changed, they'll come up with a new reason why. When it doesn't help stop the spread and your children are still wearing masks all day with the addition of the experimental science juice running through their veins. Remember you made the choice to inject them.


You have not participated. You don't have children this age and this does not apply to you. Go lie down boomer.

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