About 50 keiki under the age of 5 received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic hosted by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa Children’s Center (UHMCC) and Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies on June 24. The event was held one week after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) gave emergency use authorization for children ages 6 months through 5 years to receive the vaccine to help prevent the spread of the virus.
The clinic was held on the grounds of the UH Mānoa College of Education’s Castle Memorial Hall and was open to anyone eligible to receive a shot between the ages of 6 months to 90 years of age. A total of 100 shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine were given during the clinic.
“Like all high-quality group child care facilities, UHMCC has been partnering with enrolled families to control the spread of infectious diseases,” said Jeffrey Bock, UHMCC education coordinator and acting director. “The COVID pandemic has continued to be a long and difficult battle, and the final emergency approval by the CDC for children 6 months to 5 years of age has been a long awaited blessing.”
UHMCC enrolls children ages 2 to 5 years, and has provided child care to parenting students of UH Mānoa and its faculty and staff since 1987. As more vaccines are administered to the 5 and under age group, the center plans to adjust their response to COVID-19 exposure.
“Now, instead of closing a classroom, which limits access to affordable child care, we are able to continue to offer child care to those unexposed and who have some level of immunity,” Bock added.
According to local child care experts with the Early Childhood Action Strategy, the pandemic has highlighted the important role child care plays in enabling parents to work and the instability of child care businesses. In 2019, an estimated 64,066 children ages 0-5 were in need of child care with only 20,157 spots available for children at licensed/registered child care providers in 2021. Additionally, more than 3,600 child care spaces have been lost due to pandemic-related challenges. Support to sustain the state’s child care sector to improve children and families’ access to high-quality services is essential.
Bock noted that the vaccines will help open child-care seats, but, “it will be a long struggle to get back to where we were, let alone where we should be.”
A second vaccination clinic is scheduled for July 22. For more information on how to pre-register, email email@example.com.