COLUMBIA, Md. (WJZ) — A little more than a week has passed since children as young as five years old were cleared to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Since then, thousands of parents have brought their children to get the shot.

According to figures provided by the Maryland Department of Health, 36,000 children ages 5 to 11 have been vaccinated statewide since last week.

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About 515,000 children in that age group who are now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine, according to the Department of Health.

Health Secretary Dennis Schrader said the state is off to a great start because on average, about 6,000 children in the new age group are getting vaccinated daily.

The state has received nearly 300,000 doses so far, and Schrader said he believes there will be enough supply to keep up with demand.

For parents who might be hesitant to get their children vaccinated, the secretary reminded the public that children are vulnerable to the virus.

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“Since the pandemic started, we’ve had over 700 hospitalizations for children under 12, so children under 12 are not immune from this disease,” Schrader said. “I think if we can vaccinate as many of the 5 to 11 population before the holidays, that’s going to help us a lot, because families want to get together and with the vaccination for the younger folks. Within a week after their second shot, they will be in good shape.”

At a church that also serves as a vaccination site in Howard County, Natasha Thorne signed up her children to be vaccinated on the first day they became eligible.

“I think there were tears when we first made appointments,” Thorne said while holding back tears. “It’s been a long journey. Over the course of a year, it’s been very stressful trying to keep the kids safe but also letting them live their lives.”

Churches, colleges and other public spaces are now serving as vaccine sites for the younger group, but Secretary Schrader said the health department is also partnering with schools to ensure that everyone has access to the vaccine.

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For a county-by-county breakdown of vaccination sites, click here.

Ava-joye Burnett