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Doctors prepare to vaccinate kids once they're given the official OK

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

So Dr. Elizabeth Hawse is a pediatrician in Lexington, Ky., and she is one of many pediatricians across the country getting ready for this moment. Good morning, Dr. Hawse.

ELIZABETH HAWSE: Good morning.

DETROW: So you have seen and read the White House plan. What do you think about it?

HAWSE: I think it's a good plan. I am very happy that they're enlisting us pediatricians on the first wave of getting these shots in the 5- to 11-year-olds. I think we're a trusted health care provider. They come to us for all their other vaccines. It's a familiar environment for kids 5 to 11, and I think they'll do well in that kind of environment.

DETROW: You know, polls have shown this sustained and notable gap between adults' willingness to get a shot from themselves and potential worries about the downsides of vaccines in kids, since this is all so new. You have been vaccinating kids 12 and up already. I'm curious what your conversations have been like with parents.

HAWSE: I think we've had a lot of conversations that have been although the vaccine is new, the research is not new.

DETROW: Right.

HAWSE: That research on mRNA vaccines has been going on for years. And the fact that this wasn't rushed - really, the funding allowed this - these vaccines to be available sooner than they would've been. But because of the federal funding, they're available earlier than they would've been in the past. All the research was done on - around the same timeline as other research on other vaccines.

DETROW: And you were telling me before that some of these conversations with parents has led some parents to say - you know what? - I wasn't vaccinated before, but maybe I should get vaccinated. That was interesting.

HAWSE: Yes, that has been a happy side effect of having these vaccines in our office is we've had several parents - and if you think about it, a lot of the parents that we have contact with are in their 30s and 40s. They don't have chronic medical conditions usually, and they don't really see primary care physicians, which is another problem we probably have in the United States. But often, we are the first provider that - physician or nurse practitioner that they've actually had a one-on-one conversation about these vaccines with. And when they are able to ask their questions, they're a lot more accepting of vaccination.

DETROW: I'm curious how your office is preparing and how many kids you are expecting once this is authorized for 5 and up.

HAWSE: Yes, so we have around 2,000 kids, by our best estimate - it may be a few more - in this age group. You know, as pediatricians, we vaccinate all day, every day. We give thousands of other vaccines a year. Like, this Saturday, I'm on call. I'm working a flu clinic. We're going to give hundreds of vaccines. So this is not new to us.

DETROW: Yeah.

HAWSE: We just need to figure out how - logistically which - you know, which nurses are going to be available to work, which doctors are going to be available to work and get it done. We do it every year with flu vaccine in big boluses like this. So we'll just work off that template that we've already found to be successful.

DETROW: You know, a lot of adults don't love shots. I think a lot of kids definitely don't love shots. When you're giving vaccines, I'm just curious what your best advice is to other doctors for making sure it goes well when you - when you've got a little kid sitting there to get a shot.

HAWSE: Well, I think, A, be truthful. And this would be, you know, lesson 101 of pediatrics is kids have large imaginations. Their imaginations are often worse than the reality. Some kids will actually want to see the vaccine. Some kids have been actually - and I never thought I would see this in all my years of pediatrics - come in and be excited about getting a vaccine.

DETROW: (Laughter).

HAWSE: I think this has impacted their lives...

DETROW: Yeah.

HAWSE: ...So much that even though they don't like the shot, they're ready to get the vaccine. I think a lot of their parents have gotten a vaccine before. So if the parent can say, listen; I got this. You know, it's not that bad. It's really a small amount. It's a small needle. And, you know, and you can do this. And once you've done this, you're going to be a lot safer around your friends and family. You're not going to get quarantined at school, which is a huge, huge issue with these kids. And so I think overall, the - you know, at 5, they're old enough to see - they may not like it, but they can definitely see the positives outweigh the negatives.

DETROW: I'm curious how much - you said you - there's about 2,000 5- to 11-year-olds in your practice. How much outreach do you plan to do with families that you don't hear from right off the bat once this is authorized?

HAWSE: So usually, what we do - and I think a lot of pediatric offices will do this. We do use social media. We'll put it on our website and on social media. We also are able to send a text blast to all our families. We're able to pull a report of who has a child 5 to 11 that would be eligible...

DETROW: Oh, OK.

HAWSE: ...And send them a text message saying the vaccine is available. But I have had - almost every person I have seen the past few weeks with a child 5 to 11 is asking me, are you going to get the vaccine?

DETROW: That's the...

HAWSE: When are you going to get the vaccine? Can I make an appointment?

DETROW: That's the conversation I'm having with a lot of other parents as well. Dr. Elizabeth Hawse, thank you. Thank you so much for speaking with us.

HAWSE: Thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.