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Hundreds of Northeast Ohio kids lined up to get vaccinated at Hudson Middle School

Hundreds of school-age children received COVID-19 vaccines at Hudson Middle School Friday, alongside their parents, health care workers dressed in superhero capes - and even the governor.

Disney music blared over the loudspeaker and superhero signs hung from the walls as kids as young as 5 came in to get their shot.

Six-year-old Mia Spirtos-Bacino got the vaccine “because it’ll fight off the virus,” she said.

“I don’t really feel safe on the playground because there are so many classes, so many people,” she said.

As she stood in line with her mom, Pennie, waiting to be called back, she said she was nervous and did not like getting shots – but was all smiles afterward.

“It hurt a little bit. Not too, too bad,” Spirtos-Bacino, who turns 7 on Sunday, said. “I’m excited for my birthday party so I can … invite a few more people.”

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Six-year-old Mia Spirtos-Bacino hugs her mom, Pennie, before receiving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Hudson Middle School on Nov. 12, 2021. [Anna Huntsman / Ideastream Public Media]

Gov. Mike DeWine talked and took pictures with some of the kids, and spoke to members of the media about the efforts to get Ohio children vaccinated. At least 200 schools across the state are holding clinics for the 5 to 11 age group, DeWine said.

“It really makes a difference when a vaccination takes place in a school because the school is the heart of the community. The school is the place that we trust. The school is the place that we’re used to taking our kids to,” DeWine said. “More people are going to feel comfortable about getting vaccinated.”

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Ohio Gov. DeWine poses with Colt and Zoey Soulsby before they received their COVID-19 vaccines on Friday. [Kabir Bhatia / WKSU]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged 5 to 11 last week.

The school health services department at Akron Children’s Hospital has partnered with more than 20 school districts in Northeast Ohio to offer vaccination clinics for this age group, said Christine Young, chief nursing officer at Akron Children’s.

More than 600 kids age 5 to 11 got the vaccine at the Hudson Middle School clinic, she said, and more than 3,500 children in this age group got vaccinated at other school clinics and at Akron Children’s community clinic this past week.

“There is a lot of interest, as was evidenced by today,” she said. “The lines were out the door and parents are really excited to be able to have this opportunity.”

Gwynne Simmons, whose 9-year-old son Ben also received the vaccine in Hudson Friday, decided to sign him up for the shot after weighing the pros and cons, she said.

“I thought overall, I was very excited that it was offered, and I think it was the right thing to do,” Simmons said. “I had my concerns, but I think it’s overwhelmingly positive than the negative. There’s always a risk in things, and I think this was the best choice for us.”

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Gwynne Simmons (left) and her nine-year-old son Ben embrace after Ben received the COVID-19 shot at Hudson Middle School. [Anna Huntsman / Ideastream Public Media]

Her son said he is excited to get the shot so he can hold his new baby cousin.

“We can’t get close enough to him yet because he is a baby and we don’t want to get him sick,” he said. “At first I felt kind of nervous, but then when it’s over, it goes so fast and it feels like it’s over super quick. It doesn’t really hurt, the part where you get it.”

Eleven-year-old Conner Nelson said the shot did not hurt at all.

“It felt painless and it keeps me more safe,” he said. “I just felt excited that I could get it finally and I could just be more safe with my family.”

His dad, Kevin Nelson, is a firefighter, and said he was eager for his middle schooler to get the shot.

“I’m one of the first responders, so I was able to get my vaccine very early on, but that was always a fear - if something happens and I bring it back home to my family. So, I’m happy now that the whole family can be safe,” Nelson said.

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Conner Nelson, an 11-year-old student at Hudson Middle School, shows off his sticker after getting the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday, Nov. 12, 2021. [Anna Huntsman / Ideastream Public Media]

While talking to kids at the clinic, DeWine said he was reminiscing on a similar experience he had as a child: receiving the polio vaccine when he was in second grade in 1955.

“I told several of the children, and I didn’t expect them to know what polio was. Thank God they don’t know what polio is,” DeWine said.

About 60 percent of Ohio’s population is vaccinated, although the percentage is closer to 40 in the 12 to 15 age range, he said. DeWine hopes there will be good uptake of the shot in the 5 to 11 group, he said.

“It really gives families more confidence and really more flexibility about what they can do at Thanksgiving, what they can do at Christmas,” he said. “It’s, I think, peace of mind for families, and that’s one of the impressions I got as I talked to people in there.”

Pennie Spirtos, whose daughter Mia received the shot, said she will feel safer gathering around family now. She also has four-year-old twin sons and hopes younger age groups will have access to the shot in the future.

“I feel like this will allow us to still be very conservative with what we do, but at least we will have an extra layer of protection,” Spirtos said. “I will feel better knowing at least she has the shot.”

Akron Children’s also held a clinic in the Nordonia Hills school district Friday, and Akron Public Schools will host a clinic for eligible students Saturday, officials said.

Copyright 2021 WCPN. To see more, visit WCPN.