COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – According to state health officials, South Carolina is receiving more than 55,000 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of 5.

DHEC Director of Public Health Dr. Brannon Traxler said this initial allocation is supposed to arrive later this week.

Over the weekend, the CDC approved COVID-19 vaccinations for Americans 6 months and up for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. This came after an emergency use authorization was granted for both vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

DHEC says they are glad that research has shown these vaccines are safe and effective in these age groups. State health officials say they strongly encourage all South Carolina parents to talk with their child’s healthcare provider and get their children in these age groups vaccinated to increase protection against COVID-19.

“Having a safe and effective vaccine for this youngest age group is great news for South Carolinians,” said DHEC Director Dr. Edward Simmer. “While most children experience relatively mild or even no symptoms if they are infected with COVID-19, severe cases and even deaths in young children can occur, and they can easily spread the virus to family members, especially those who are elderly or immunocompromised. Getting this younger age group vaccinated will go a long way in our ongoing efforts to control the impacts of COVID-19 and keep our families safe, especially as we get further into the summer months.”

DHEC will be offering these free vaccines at many DHEC vaccine clinics, including health departments. Their vaccine locator will list the clinics that have the vaccine available and designate them as “6 months to 5 years.” In addition, DHEC is working with pediatricians and other providers to ensure they have a supply if they choose to offer the vaccine for this age group.

Parents are encouraged to check with local healthcare providers and pharmacies to see if they are offering the vaccine to this age group.

Dr. Bob Saul is the President of the South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He also recommends getting your young child vaccinated against COVID-19. He said “There are three outcomes when you are exposed to COVID. You can get infected, you get hospitalized and you could die. If vaccines take two of those three away, why aren’t we vaccinating everyone?”

To find a vaccination site near you can use DHEC’s vaccine locator or by calling their CARE Line at 1 (855) 472-3432.