DES MOINES, Iowa — More kids around the Des Moines metro now have a chance to get vaccinated against COVID-19. On Monday, UnityPoint Health began vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 years old at its pediatric clinics.

A local boy was excited to roll up his sleeve and get the shot on Monday. “It was amazing. I knew that I was going to be protected from COVID-19,” said 10-year-old Alex Wardell of Ankeny.

Alex had been waiting to get the vaccine for a long time. He’s been attending school virtually, a precaution his mother took to keep him healthy.

“I really want to see my friends again and go back to in-person school,” Alex said.

“It’s been really stressful this last year and a half or so to know that he’s not protected with a vaccine, so it’s been a huge relief to finally get him the first shot,” said Melissa Sonnenblume, Alex’s mother.

According to a study by Pfizer, at least 1.8 million children between 5 to 11 years old have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the U.S. Health experts say children getting the vaccine should experience little to no side effects.

“The dose is a third of the adult dose, and it was done very intentionally to minimize side effects and particularly long-term effects as well. So I think Pfizer has done a great job at trying to dial in that dose to make sure that we have maximized effect with minimized side effects,” said Mike Brownlee, chief pharmacy officer at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics.

“I trust the vaccine makers. I trust the people who do this kind of thing for a living, for a job that they know what they’re doing and that they’re doing it safely. It’s just a level of protection that you can give your kid in the middle of a pandemic to make them stay safe and healthy,” said Sonnenblume.

UnityPoint Health says parents should schedule their kids appointment through their pediatrician.