While most large pharmacy chains administer Covid vaccines for ages 3 and up, some do not. Publix and Kroger, for example, offer shots for ages 5 and up.
CVS is offering Covid vaccines to children 18 months and younger at stores that house its MinuteClinic locations, but sets the minimum age at 5 for other stores.
It was not clear Thursday why some pharmacies set their age limits where they were. Erin Rolfes, a Kroger spokeswoman, declined to comment on the reasons her pharmacies had 5 as the lower limit. Publix did not respond to messages seeking comment. A CVS spokeswoman, Amy Thibault, said only that the chain was using pharmacists, pharmacy interns and pharmacy technicians to give injections to children 5 and older.
Mitchel Rothholz, who leads immunization advocacy at the American Pharmacists Association, said all pharmacists are trained to administer vaccines to people over the age of 3, but some may prefer additional training before working with younger children.
“Whether the practice does or doesn’t is based on your comfort level and availability of resources,” he said.
Even if the pharmacy of your choice doesn’t offer injections to your eligible child, the pharmacist there can point you in the right direction. “I always encourage parents and caregivers to talk to the pharmacy or contact their pediatrician,” Mr. Rothholz said.
Asked Thursday about many pharmacies’ policies for vaccinating children over 3 years old, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said “a lot of this may be related to the PREP Act, but also with the ability of pharmacies to handle younger children.”
He also pointed to what he described as “the willingness of parents to want to take their youngest children to where they are routinely vaccinated, whether it is their local community health center or their local pediatrician.”
Some parents have already encountered obstacles.
Kelly Jensen, of Woodstock, Ill., said she made at least 10 phone calls earlier this week to find a vaccine for her 14-month-old daughter. Many large pharmacies aren’t giving the vaccine to children this young, and Ms. Jensen said her pediatrician wasn’t offering the vaccine to young children either, citing waning interest.
“What’s so frustrating is that I couldn’t find any information,” said Jensen, 37. “I felt like I was losing my mind trying to find something.”
Other types of clinics might be a better option for many parents, but some parents have turned to social media groups and grassroots networks to find pharmacies that can accommodate their children.
A group of volunteers called Vaccinate Under 5 has created a national database of pharmacies and providers that administer the vaccine to young children. The map, complete with online presentations from parents and doctors, was up and running with appointments for children under 5, the group said.
“We didn’t want any more barriers to access when parents have already been through so much,” the group said in a statement. “As parents, we’ve been waiting months for the option to vaccinate and give them the same basic immunity that other ages have been able to access for months.”
On Tuesday, Ms. Jensen drove to a doctor’s office 30 minutes from her home, where she was told the vaccine was not available as she had been notified. A day later, the office called to notify her that the vaccine was in stock. She hurried.
“I had my son during a pandemic,” Ms. Jensen said. “She’s now over a year into a pandemic, and finally having some kind of help for her poor little system is like, now it looks like maybe we can have a normal, normal childhood for her.”
Here are the policies of some of the major pharmacy chains: