News travels fast these days, so by now we assume that most of you have heard that during the last week of October the FDA granted emergency use authorization (EUA) for the Pfizer/BioNTech (which we’ll just refer to as “Pfizer” from here on out. Sorry, BioNTech) COVID vaccine for children ages 5-11 years. After conducting their own review, the CDC now recommends this vaccine for children in this age range, and children across the country are beginning to get their first doses.
We know that many of you have been eagerly awaiting this opportunity to immunize your children, while many others of you remain hesitant for any number of reasons. Please know that we respect this difference. We want to encourage you by passing on that all of our physicians are in agreement that children should be moving forward with getting vaccinated at this time. As is the case with any recommendations we pass on to you, we are not recommending something that we are not also giving to our own children (for those of us with kids in this age range).
Here are some data points that we find helpful and informative for those of you who are working through this decision:
- Pfizer is the vaccine that currently has EUA for ages 5-11. A separate trial launched by Moderna is being considered separately
- In a small number of children, the Pfizer trial compared three doses (30, 20, and 10 micrograms). This part of the trial revealed the smallest dose resulted in fewer side effects while still generating robust immune response similar to the response seen with higher doses.
- Administered as a 2-dose series, 3 weeks apart.
- Immune responses in children 5-11 years old were comparable to those of individuals 16-25 years of age. The vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19.
- This was studied in approximately 3,100 children in this age group. No serious side effects have yet to be detected and this is ongoingly being looked at closely.
- Currently in the U.S., COVID-19 cases in children 5-11 years of age make up 39% of cases in individuals younger than 18 years of age.
- According to the CDC, around 8,300 COVID-19 cases in children 5-11 years of age resulted in hospitalization.
- As of October 17th, 691 deaths from COVID-19 have been reported in the U.S. in individuals less than 18 years of age, with 146 deaths in the age group of 5-11 years.
What about myocarditis in this age group if they get the vaccine?
Great question, thank you for asking. We touched on this in a previous post, but briefly, this is a now known rare side effect of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines that is predominantly seen in young males and has been MILD in the vase majority of cases. Yes, “mild inflammation around the heart,” feels like an oxymoron, we get it. This has been followed METICULOUSLY since it was first identified and the vast majority of cases have resolved either on their own or in the home setting with NSAIDs. So can we know FOR SURE that that rate will be the same in children this age if only 3,100 kids were studied before the approval? Nope. We can never know anything for sure. Ever. Welcome to science. This is why we scientists and doctors are often not the best communicators. We speak in terms like, “relative risk” and “positive and negative predictive values.” That being said, we agree that we can extrapolate confidently the data from older children and make a good recommendation at this time. But, rest assured, this will continue to be followed very closely in this age group and we’ll be the first to tell you if things are changing.
It’s also important to go back to the points made in that previous post. Everyone has a date with COVID-19. Many of us will have a second date in the future. While 1/20,000 may feel unsafe to you as a parent when deciding for your child, remember that the risk of myocarditis in natural infection with COVID-19 is roughly 16x higher than that. As always, this is an exercise in risk assessment.
Which kids in this age group should get vaccinated at this point?
The easy answer is, “all of them.” We agree that the best way out of this pandemic that we are all tired of is to vaccinate those that have not been vaccinated. Yes, kids are still overall doing remarkably well with COVID. Thank God. But they do get sick. Particularly those children who are obese or have preexisting heart and/or lung conditions such as asthma or those who are on medications that may suppress their ability to fight off infections. While we feel that all children should get vaccinated, we are STRONGLY recommending that if your child falls into one of these categories you move forward with protecting them with this vaccination.
We understand their will continue to be a lot of questions that arise. Please be mindful of your sources when getting information. We want to help in any way that we can.
So when can I get my child the vaccine?
We just received our vaccine for this age group and have planned a vaccination clinic for this weekend with the following details:
- When: Saturday November 13 from 8AM – 11:45AM
- Where: Hickory office location
- How: PLEASE call to make an appointment for your child for this vaccination clinic. We only have 300 doses currently.
- We will also be giving flu vaccines at this vaccine clinic if your child still needs that. Yes, they can safely be given together.
As always, we are blessed and humbled by the opportunity to care for your children. We know how much they mean to you. We all have kids of our own. We’re just parents taking care of other parent’s children the best that we can……we just happened to spend a ridiculous amount of our lives studying this kind of stuff!