The best place for a child between 6 months and...

The best place for a child between 6 months and 4 years to get a COVID-19 shot is the pediatrician's office, according to Long Island health experts. Credit: zz / STRF / STAR MAX / IPx

The COVID-19 vaccine is finally available to the youngest Long Islanders, but as anyone who has been around children in the age groups of 6 months to 4 years knows, now comes the hard part — figuring out the best way to give them a shot.

After all, these are experienced shot takers. In their first years of life, infants and young children receive a series of required vaccinations during their regular visits to the pediatrician for diseases such as measles, influenza, polio and chickenpox.

The best bet, according to Long Island health experts, is the pediatrician's office where trained professionals can help — if not get rid of yet another needle sting — then at least assist anxious children and parents.

“You have to make sure you hold them the right way,” said Dr. Eve Meltzer Krief, a Huntington Village pediatrician who sits on the executive council of the Long Island-Brooklyn/Queens chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “[Infants and toddlers] have to be put in the proper position, sometimes with the help of the parents. There are a number of things involved.”

Infants often have to get vaccinations in their upper leg because they don’t have enough fat in their arms at that point in development, said Dr. Matthew Harris, medical director of the Northwell Health vaccine program and a pediatric emergency medicine specialist.

“There certainly is a degree of clinical and technical expertise,” Harris said.

He said children usually start getting vaccinations in the arms after they are about a year old or so, depending on the size of the individual child.

Inoculating a squirmy toddler can sometimes be difficult as well. Being in familiar surroundings with a familiar doctor can help, experts said.

But some parents and guardians might not be able to see a pediatrician and will head to community clinics and local pharmacies to get their children vaccinated.

Large chain pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens are making special preparations for administering vaccines to this youngest group of children.

Walgreens said it will vaccinate children 3 years of age and older in select stores. They are also providing stickers and activity sheets for kids to play with during the 15-minute observation period after they receive the vaccination. Parents and kids can also print out a free photo of their vaccination.

CVS said it will vaccinate children 18 months to 4 years at select pharmacies that have MinuteClinics once dosages are received.

“Our MinuteClinic clinicians comprised of board-certified family nurse practitioners, physician associates and nurses have significant experience providing vaccinations to a younger population as well as private exam rooms, which will make the process easier for kids, parents and guardians,” spokesman Matthew Blanchette told Newsday in an email.

Meltzer Krief noted there is still a lot of COVID-19 circulating on Long Island. In addition, parents who don’t think their child needs the vaccine because their young one recently had COVID-19 are mistaken, she said, because the natural immunity does not appear to ward off new variants and subvariants.

“It’s really important to protect this age group,” she said. “Even if they had COVID-19 during omicron, they are still susceptible to other strains going around.”

Harris agreed, pointing out that while most kids in the young age group do well clinically after contracting COVID-19, there are some who become very ill and need to be hospitalized. Children can also spread COVID-19 to medically-vulnerable relatives.

“There is certainly a public health and an individual reason to get the vaccine to this age group,” he said.

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