By Rachael Cardin

COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — About 31,000 Howard County children are between the ages of 5 and 11, making them eligible for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

Public health experts say the COVID-19 vaccine will not only protect children and keep them healthy in school but also help to bring the coronavirus pandemic to an end.

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Getting shots in children’s arms is the next step in the fight against COVID-19, officials say. Clinics throughout the county are already setting up appointments for kids.

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Howard County Health Officer Dr. Maura Rossman said the vaccine has undergone rigorous testing and will continue to be tested as the vaccines roll out.

“The vaccine has been specially formulated for younger children and will be administered at one-third the dose previously administered to children and adults over 12,” Dr. Rossman said.

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In Maryland, more than 100,000 children have been infected with COVID-19, 12 of whom died of the illness.

“At this point, we have to rely on science,” parent Patrick Myles said. “And if science is favorable to it at this point and it’s reliable and feedback is good, then I’m all for it.”

Nicole Towsene considers herself neutral on the issue, saying she thinks parents should have the ultimate say.

“I think it is important to be able to trust your doctors, but at the end of the day, I think it’s everyone’s decision,” Towsene said. “I don’t believe, especially for children, it should be a mandatory thing.”

“I am overjoyed it is now available to 5- to 11-year-olds,” said Dr. Michael Martirano, superintendent of Howard County Public Schools.

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Howard County is one of the most vaccinated in the state, with more than 80% of eligible residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Rachael Cardin