Ahead of Revere Department Public Health’s (RDPH) COVID19 vaccination event for school-age children ages 5 through 11, Revere Public School (RPS) held an informational Webinar Monday night to encourage as many families as possible to consider getting their children vaccinated.
The FDA recently approved the Pfizer vaccine after months of clinical trials for ages 5-11 and the CDC is now recommending this group to get vaccinated in order to starve off the ongoing pandemic.
With every one out of four new COVID infections in children this trend has been consistent since the origins of the Delta Variant of the virus in Massachusetts. Over the past two weeks the state saw 5000 new COVID cases in children ages zero to 19.
On Thursday, November 18 the RDPH in collaboration with Mass General and RPS, will host two children’s COVID-19 vaccine clinics. Joined at the clinic will be support dogs from Oceanview Kennel and a face-painter to help ease anxieties. The first clinic is at the Garfield School from 2:40-4:30 pm and the second clinic is at the Whelan School from 5:00-7:00 pm. Both clinics are outdoors in the Mass General Brigham Mobile Van.
At Monday’s Webinar, RDPH’s Dr. Suzanne Boxer offered solid information as well as the pros and cons of being vaccinated but concluded that the approved Pfizer vaccine is both safe and effective against COVID.
“I’m here to talk to you as a pediatrician, but also as a mother,” said Dr. Boxer. “I have an eight year old and an 11 year old and I have been sharing in your day to day struggles dealing with COVID and all of the changes it’s brought to our lives over the last 20 months. We all want the same for our kids and our families. We want them to stay safe, healthy and happy. So what about this vaccine? It can be very exhausting to sort through all the information that’s out there. Really, the best we can do as parents is to make good informed decisions about what we think is best for our kids. And what do I mean by informed I mean a decision that is based on the best scientific information that is available to us at the time.”
Dr. Boxer said sadly there are a lot of myths and misinformation floating out there in the news and social media and it can be confusing to know what to believe and what to do.
“My hope is that by the end, you will come to the same conclusion as me and choose to vaccinate your children,” said Dr. Boxer. “COVID, unfortunately, is not going away anytime soon. And even if we get numbers under better control, it’s still going to be around with ongoing ups and downs for quite some time. This is especially important to consider as the colder weather approaches and holidays, as these have historically been related to higher numbers in New England.”
Dr. Boxer said on the flip side, the good news is that COVID vaccines and boosters are helping to improve the number of hospitalizations and deaths.
“And we now have this new vaccine for 5 to 11 year olds,” she said. “(Aside from the FDA and CDC) the vaccine has been unanimously endorsed by a number of pediatric professional groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society. The fact that multiple scientists and physicians, many of whom spend their whole lives studying vaccines feel we should be vaccinating our younger children means a lot to me.”
Dr. Boxer said a common question she hears from patients is, “Why should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine if most kids don’t get very sick from COVID?”
“There are many reasons,” she said. “Although COVID infection is typically milder in children than in adults, it does not mean that an infection is risk free. Previously healthy children with COVID-19 have developed severe lung infections as well as Multi System Inflammatory Syndrome in children. This is a very serious complication of COVID that can affect the heart and the vessels and can cause severe cases of myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle).”
Dr. Boxer said as of early October there have been over 5,000 documented cases of this inflammatory syndrome in children in the United States. In the 5 to 11 year range, there have been over 8,000 hospitalizations from COVID and third of those were in otherwise healthy children.
“Unfortunately, in this age group, we’ve seen 143 deaths and when we look at children as a whole there have been over 600 deaths (from COVID),” she said. “These are not insignificant numbers. They’re very real to the families that have been affected and the way I see it, no family should ever have to lose their child to a vaccine-preventable illness.”
Dr. Boxer said the Pfizer vaccine is safe and it works–very well.
“The Pfizer vaccine for 4 to 11 year olds has now been studied in over 4000 children,” said Dr. Boxer. “The vaccine trials showed an efficacy rate of 90%. This means that it works to prevent symptomatic COVID infection in more than 90 out of every 100 participants in the trial. We know that getting this vaccine makes us less likely to transmit COVID to others. We’re still studying the magnitude of this but we know that it helps.”
Dr. Boxer argued that by children getting the vaccine it will move us closer to normalcy by making it safer to have unmasked playdates, play indoor sports, and to travel more. It will also make all of us feel a little bit better about being indoors with higher risk family members, including the elderly, who, because of weaker immune systems can’t always have a good response to vaccines.
“Finally, we need to think about the toll that COVID has taken on our communities at large and how vaccination will help protect our neighbors and the spread of COVID and potentially the emergence of new and more dangerous COVID variance,” said Dr. Boxer. “Vaccinating our children is a major step for us as a population to be able to return to some sense of normalcy after 20 months of this awful pandemic.”
As far as side effects, Dr. Boxer said the frequency of side effects in 5 to 11 year olds were lower than the vaccine studies of older participants. “The most common side effect was pain at the injection site, seen in about 70% followed by fatigue and headache in about one in three children and chills, fever and body aches occurring less frequently in about one in 10 children,” she said. “In the Pfizer trial for 5 to 11 year olds there were no reported cases of myocarditis, blood clots, allergy or death and most side effects resolved within one to two days and really are a signal that your child’s immune system is learning how to protect their body against the virus encountered in the future. So to me,