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Colorado pharmacies jumping over barriers to get COVID vaccines for youngest age group

After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 6 months to 4 years, the youngest Coloradans have begun getting their COVID shots. Several days into this next vaccination wave, some pharmacies are facing challenges in serving the youngest part of the newly approved population.

Born into a pandemic world, Chalie Hancock will soon be more protected than ever before. On Wednesday, he was just an appointment at Capitol Heights Pharmacy away.

"I think it's a shame that I brought him into this world as it is right now. We thought this was going to be over," said Melissa Hancock, his mother. "I was refreshing the website, and this was the only one that came up, and I went, 'bet.'"

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At 14 months old, Charlie is among millions of children under 5 now eligible for the COVI-19 vaccine.

While an easy decision for his parents, getting to this point wasn't easy for some pharmacies like Capitol Heights. Their biggest headache ahead of offering children the vaccine was a federal rule called the Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness Act, which prohibits pharmacies from administering a vaccine to a child under 3.

"Most pharmacies are really only authorized on their protocols to work down to three years old," said Kristin Holmes, owner of the pharmacy.

According to Holmes, it's a rule that doesn't apply to pediatricians, and it all comes down to liability protections. This week, she found a solution to start administering the shot to newly eligible children.

"We were able to get a physician to sign off on an individual protocol for us to go down to six months, and that's how we're giving vaccines now," she said.

It's a step, Hancock appreciates, along with the dozens of others booking appointments after months of waiting.

"He doesn't go to daycare; he doesn't have friends. Maybe now he can," said Hancock.

While not every parent is ready to make the same choice, the option is now there.

"We've made such an effort to get this in arms of every other age group, that we really wanted to help those parents out now," Holmes said.

A spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment said the federal rule preempts state requirements that would otherwise prohibit certain providers from administering the vaccines. Currently, it's up to individual pharmacies to choose whether to vaccinate kids under 3.

So far, 79 pharmacies have ordered 14,300 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to offer to children across Colorado. You can find a list of vaccine providers for young children here.

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