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UT Health RGV begins administering COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5-11

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Eight-year-old Ociel Castillo receives his first dose of the pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Friday at a UT Health RGV pop-up vaccine site in Brownsville. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

Texas Border Business

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By Letty Fernandez

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TX – Nine-year-old RJ Valdez and his mother, Jennifer, were among the first to arrive at 9:30 a.m. to get his first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at the UT Health RGV pop-up vaccine site in Brownsville.

UT Health RGV began offering the pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines on Friday for children ages 5 through 11 at UTRGV’s Casa Bella Apartments.

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“It was pretty cool,” RJ said. “I am happy to get the vaccine so I can see my friends because right now I only see them on my iPad. It’s very hard. I am feeling very happy now.” The CDC on Nov. 2 approved vaccinations for the 5-11 age group. Next week, UT Health RGV has scheduled clinics in Edinburg and Harlingen. Children who get the first dose will need a second dose of the vaccine three weeks after their first shot.

Dr. Cristel Escalona, a pediatrician and chief of pediatrics for the UTRGV School of Medicine, said she is extremely excited and happy that these youngsters are finally getting the chance to get the vaccine.

“We all know and understand if we get this population vaccinated, we have a real chance of bringing down the numbers and bringing down the amount of damage that COVID-19 does to our communities,” Escalona said.

Being on the front lines and working in the hospitals, Escalona said, she saw firsthand how COVID-19 affected children. 

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“We had plenty of kids with COVID-19 in the hospitals and some that had to be transferred when they became very ill. I am really hoping much of the community considers vaccinating their children as an extra layer of protection,” Escalona said. Maria Rodriguez, from Brownsville, said she feels a sense of relief now that her 10-year-old daughter, Jocelyn, received the pediatric vaccine.

Nine-year-old RJ Valdez was excited to finally get his first dose of the pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine on Friday morning at a UT Health RGV pop-up vaccine site in Brownsville. (UTRGV Photo by David Pike)

“I was very worried every day when she would go to school, always making sure she had her mask, and then sometimes she would come home without her mask,” Rodriguez said. “Her brother is a student at UTRGV, and he encouraged her to get the vaccine. He signed her up. It was important for all of us to get vaccinated.”

For Jacqueline Castillo and her family, the wait is over. 

“I am very happy. We have been waiting for a while and my son, Ociel, was the only one who had not received the vaccine. We are still going to be careful, but he has the vaccination now and he will be protected.” 

UT Health RGV also is giving first-, second- and third-dose Pfizer and Moderna vaccines to children and adults 12 years of age and older. Those 12 and younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to get the vaccine.  To make an appointment to have your child vaccinated against COVID-19, log onto uthealth.org/vaccine or call 1-833-UTRGVMD. 

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