US begins vaccinating six-month to four-year-old children, a milestone hailed by President Joe Biden and parents but many still want to wait before taking a decision.
US hospitals, clinics and pharmacies have begun vaccinating the nation's youngest children against Covid-19, a milestone that was welcomed by parents eager to protect kids from the worst impacts of the virus.
Rollout of millions of shots was under way across the country on Tuesday, 18 months after the elderly became the first group eligible for immunisation.
Children aged from six months through four years aren't at as great a risk as adults.
But the sheer level of infections has seen more than 45,000 hospitalisations and nearly 500 deaths in the 0-4 group in America since the start of the pandemic – outcomes that vaccination could have prevented in many cases.
"We're super thrilled," said Amisha Vakil, mother of two three-year-old boys, who wore matching Spiderman tee shirts as they got their Moderna shots at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston.
One of the twins had three open heart surgeries within his first five months.
"He's super high risk so you know, we've been living in a little bubble," said Vakil. "Now he has little armor that helps a lot."
The moment was also hailed by President Joe Biden, whose administration made 10 million shots of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines available to states after they were authorised last week.
"The United States is now the first country in the world to offer safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines for children as young as six months old," said Biden, calling it a "monumental step forward."
Waiting before deciding
Many children being brought in Tuesday were born after the pandemic started and had only known a life of restrictions.
Last week, a panel of experts called by the Food and Drug Administration reviewed data from clinical trials involving thousands of children that were conducted by Pfizer and Moderna, and deemed both of the vaccines safe and effective.
However, a survey carried out by the Kaiser Family Foundation in May found only one-in-five parents of children under five were eager to get them vaccinated right away. A slightly higher proportion, 38 percent, said they would wait and see how well the vaccine worked for others.
New Yorker Rita Saeed, 29, said she was concerned about side effects and planned to wait a couple of years before deciding whether to vaccinate her two-year-old son.
"Each to their own, I think it should be optional, not mandatory," she said, pushing her son in a stroller through Central Park.
In a sign of the ongoing politicisation surrounding vaccines in America, Florida governor and possible Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis refused to place an order with the federal government for vaccines for the youngest children, leaving private practices and parents to fend for themselves.
"These are the people who have zero risk of getting anything," he said at a press conference last week.