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Kids' Vaccines Approved but Don’t Rush Out for that Jab Just Yet
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Wednesday, November 3, 2021
 

STORY AND PHOTO BY KAREN BOSSICK

The Centers for Disease Control’s vaccine advisors voted 14-0 Tuesday afternoon to recommend giving Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 through 11.And CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky gave her blessing a few hours later.

But Wood River Valley parents who are anxious to get their children vaccinated will have to wait a few more days.

The child-sized doses may not be available until next week as it will take a few days for pharmacies to receive doses and educate staff on how to handle them, said Sarah Leeds, who oversees Idaho’s immunization program.

Leeds told reporters at the state's weekly COVID briefing that the state pre-ordered about 23,400 children's doses that have already arrived;  another 11,000 doses shipped on Tuesday. All are expected to arrive in Idaho no later than Nov. 8. More will be ordered next week

Large pharmacies, such as CVS and Albertsons that receive shipments directly will receive theirs later this week.

Any risks associated with the doses, which are a third the size of adult vaccines, outweigh the risks of getting COVID, members of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society and the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners told CC advisors.

About 28 million American children will be eligible for the Pfizer vaccine, which reportedly provided 90.7 percent protection against COVID in clinical studies.

Being able to offer vaccines for children is a significant step forward in Idaho’s ability to prevent COVID illness in children, said Leeds.

Dr. Lisa Barker, a pediatrician at St. Luke’s Children’s Treasure Valley Pediatrics in Meridian, agreed:  “Vaccines have been emerged as the most important tool to prevent severe COVID disease.”

Barker said the history of vaccine science shows that any long-term side effects are observed early on in clinical studies. Authorities conducted these studies a little longer out of an abundance of caution to see if there were any cases of myocarditis, which can cause an abnormal heartbeat or shortness of breath.

There have been rare cases of myocarditis reported in young adult males who have received vaccine but those have been shown to be mild and self-dissolving, she said. Studies show that COVID disease has a much higher rate of myocarditis associated with it, she added.

It’s expected that the rate of myocarditis in young children will be lower, added Dr. Christine Hahn, state epidemiologist.

More than 8,300 American children ages 5 to 11 have been hospitalized with COVID—a third of those requiring intensive care, according to the CDC. Nearly 800 children and teens under 18 have died of COVID-19--nearly a hundred of them between 5 and 11.

About 5,000 have been diagnosed with MIS-C, a multi-inflammatory syndrome that can cause inflammation in the brain, kidneys and other organs.

Deputy State Epidemiologist Dr. Kathryn Turner said a third of Idaho’s pediatric COVID hospitalizations have occurred during the past three months of the 20-month pandemic. The average age of children hospitalized is 8.5 years with more than half of those so ill that they require care in intensive care units. Doctors are seeing long COVID symptoms in 7 percent to 8 percent of children.

The number of actual reported cases is just the tip of the iceberg because not everyone seeks care and those testing themselves at home may never report positive cases, said Turner. In addition, some who have COVID are asymptomatic.

Thirty Idaho children who have gotten MIS-C--all otherwise healthy kids with no differences in ethnicity or geography, said Turner.

Barker described how she cared for a 6-year-old who had a mild case of COVID that involved a fever and respiratory problems. He returned, extremely sick with a rash from head to toe, extreme fatigue and other symptoms. It was determined that all of his organs were inflamed.

The number of COVID cases among Idaho children have decreased over the past two weeks but remain significantly higher than last summer, said Turner. “And we’re just getting down to what we saw at the peak of last winter, she added.

About 33 percent of 12- to 17-year-old Idahoans are fully vaccinated, according to Health and Welfare.

Barker said she’s seen a positive excitement about the vaccine for children, although some parents may be hesitant to rush out and get it because it’s new.

Clinical trials are currently going on in younger age groups as young as 2, but there’s no word when manufacturers will seek authorization, said Hahn.

CRISIS STANDARDS OF CARE STILL IN EFFECT

Health officials said the number of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations continues to decline, but is still too high to retract crisis standards of care, which provides guidelines for doctors when it comes to choosing which patients get ventilators and other resources.

There were 1,001 new COVID-19 cases reported on Monday and 924 on Tuesday. Blaine County reported 33 new cases since Thursday--an average of six new cases a day. Test positivity is double the 5 percent officials want to see, said Public Health Administrator Elke Shaw-Tulloch. And hospital staffs continue to be overwhelmed by hospitalizations of all sorts.

Hospitalizations and test positivity need to decline further to deactivate crisis standards of care, said Dave Jeppesen, director of Idaho Health and Welfare. And hospitals need to be able to close down non-traditional space—say, non-ICU space that they’ve converted into ICU space.

“We’re watching daily what’s happening with our hospital partners,” said Jeppesen.

BOOSTER SHOTS

As of Monday, 118,392 Idahoans had gotten their booster shots, according to Leeds. The data shows that booster shots may take a little less than two weeks to be fully protective, said Hahn.

“That’s the beauty of it. The second time around, the body says, ‘Oh, I remember this, ” she said. “But to be safe, if you’re going to be in a big gathering, if you’re traveling for the holidays, it’s best to get your booster as soon as possible.”

IMMUNITY THROUGH INFECTION

Between 1 percent and 2 percent of those who have had COVID have gotten reinfected. Having the disease offers some short-term protection but doesn’t offer lifelong immunity, said Turner.

It’s not predictable who gets long-lasting immunity and who doesn’t, said Hahn. So, you don’t want to risk getting COVID just to get the immunity, given the possibility for severe illness or even death.


 

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