Pediatricians at the University of Miami discuss how the new COVID-19 vaccine could change the impact of the pandemic in the coming months.
After almost a year of waiting, children aged 5 to 11 can now get vaccinated against COVID-19.
And three pediatricians from the University of Miami hope that parents and guardians will soon benefit from the vaccine so that their children can be fully protected before the Christmas holidays.
“This vaccine will lower the infection rate and it will reduce the spread of the virus to keep children in school,” said Dr. Lisa Gwynn, associate professor of pediatrics and public health at Miller School of Medicine. as interim head of department of child and youth health in the department of Pediatrics. Gwynn also directs the Pediatric Mobile Clinic, which provides free COVID-19 testing and vaccines, along with all school vaccinations, to children in Miami-Dade County. “It also means we can get back to normal faster, with less risk of people getting infected and dying.”
dr. Melvin Almodovar, chief of pediatric cardiology at the Miller School, said he would also recommend the vaccine to his patients.
“Vaccination remains key to preventing the acquisition and spread of COVID-19, or serious illness and possible death, in children who contract the infection,” said Almodovar, who also leads the Children’s Heart Center and Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at the Department of Pediatrics. and Holtz Children’s Hospital. “It may also help reduce the impact of active primary COVID-19 infections and associated conditions, such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C).”
With the support of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last week, kids ages 5 and older can now roll up their sleeves and get the two-dose Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine. . Gwynn, who is also chairman of the Florida division of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), said pediatricians across the state are downright “giddy” at the news and can’t wait to get the vaccine into their offices.
“We’re excited,” she said. “We knew it was coming, and the trials look promising for the babies too. So we’re looking forward to that.”
Like adults, children receive their Pfizer injections three weeks apart. They are not fully vaccinated until two weeks after the second injection. But the pediatric vaccine is also slightly different from the original version. For example, the pediatric vaccine is one-third the potency of the adult vaccine, and it’s composed differently. But that doesn’t mean it won’t provide the same protection as the adult vaccine, Gwynn says. In studies, the vaccine was 90.7 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19, according to news reports.
“Children’s immune systems are more reactive, so they don’t need as much vaccine to boost the immune response and produce antibodies to fight this virus,” Gwynn said.
Still, due to differences in preparation and emergency use status, the federal government has decided that the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine will only be available in pharmacies, clinics and pediatric practices. The university will receive its share of the vaccine from the Florida Department of Health this week and will begin distributing it on Monday, November 15 through the Pediatric Mobile Clinic, the Shotz-2-Go bus, at school clinics, and at the pediatric practices of the United States. University.
The availability of a vaccine for this younger population gives pediatricians a new tool to fight COVID-19. Although the new coronavirus mainly affected older people at the start of the pandemic, pediatricians saw an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in children and teenagers last winter, and then in August and September due to the highly contagious Delta variant. AAP reports indicate that more than 6 million American children have contracted COVID-19 during the pandemic, representing 16.6 percent of all cases. Nearly 800 children and adolescents have died from COVID-19, with 173 in the ages of 5 to 11, the CDC reports. dr. Ivan Gonzalez, an associate professor of clinical pediatrics, said he thinks the vaccine will be especially helpful for parents and carers of children with weakened immune systems, people with chronic illnesses or who are obese and therefore at risk for severe COVID-19.
“A lot of the kids we see in the hospital today are in that age group (5-11) and couldn’t be vaccinated before,” said Gonzalez, who also leads the pediatric infectious disease training program in the Infectious Diseases Division. Diseases and Immunology at the Miller School. “Others decided not to get vaccinated, or they had conditions that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19. So hopefully with the vaccine we will see fewer hospital admissions in this age group.”
There is also evidence that the vaccines help reduce transmission of COVID-19. So if young children get the vaccine, it may also protect immunocompromised family members and others who are at risk for serious illness, Almodovar stressed.
Despite concerns about potential side effects, university pediatricians also say the risk of something more serious than some injection site pain, headache, or any fatigue is extremely low. While many are concerned about myocarditis, an inflammation around the heart that has affected some adolescent boys who received the vaccine, doctors say the condition is highly treatable and none of these teens died from it.
“Children are 10 times more likely to develop severe COVID-19 or multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) if they are not vaccinated than a side effect such as myocarditis from the vaccine,” Gonzalez said. “And if you get complications from a COVID-19 infection, those complications last for a while and kids have trouble breathing, sometimes for up to six weeks.”
Gonzalez also noted that the vaccine comes at a time when public schools are beginning to relax their mask mandates in the senior classes. If these rules trickle down to elementary schools, Gonzalez said vaccinating children may be the best option for protecting children from getting COVID-19 or spreading the dangerous disease to others. Last week, due to low infection rates in the community, Miami-Dade County’s public schools began allowing middle and high school students to opt out of the mask mandate, and Broward County allowed high school students to opt out just days before that. unsubscribe from masks.
“The timing is really crucial now,” he said. “As mask mandates have been relaxed and people come together for the holidays, there is a chance that many children will become infected. But if they are vaccinated, they can develop immunity and gain protection against the disease. So they are not at risk of a serious COVID-19 infection.”
Gwynn and Gonzalez agreed that the bigger challenge will be convincing parents and guardians that the vaccine is safe because of all the misinformation circulating — often fueled by social media. Polls show that up to 60 percent of parents and guardians either want to wait or would not consider vaccinating their 5 to 11-year-old children. But the pediatricians hope that opinions will change if the positive effects of these vaccines are emphasized.
“There is no reason to wait. We need to protect children now,” Gwynn said. “These vaccines are safe and effective and have passed all rigorous standards for evaluating a vaccine. We trust science, and we hope parents will trust it, and have those discussions with their pediatricians.”
To get a vaccine through the university’s pediatric mobile clinic or Shotz-2-Go van, check the schedule to see where they are each day.