November 25, 2022

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Bloomington pediatricians answer common vaccine questions

10 min read
Bloomington pediatricians answer common vaccine questions

Nearly a quarter of Monroe County’s 5-11 aged children have received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, but many parents are still wrestling with the question: Should I get my child vaccinated?

Last week, Monroe County Board of Health member and retired pediatrician Dr. Carol Litten Touloukian hosted a town hall with local pediatricians Dr. Scot Moore, Dr. Jim Laughlin and Dr. Jason Simmonds to answer that question and many others, Art Of Landscaping.

Dr. Moore currently serves as chairman of the IU Health Bloomington Infection Control Committee. Dr. Laughlin is the chief practice officer of IU Health Southern Indiana Physicians and a volunteer pediatric consultant for Monroe County Community School Corporation district. Dr. Simmonds is the medical director for Riley Physicians in the South Central Region of Indiana.

Here are some of the common questions that were asked during Wednesday’s town hall.

Where can I get my child vaccinated?

Indiana residents can find and schedule an appointment nearby at ourshot.in.gov. Due to high demand, vaccine appointments in Monroe County are mostly booked through the year, but residents are encouraged to frequently check back, in case there have been cancellations.

If appointments are not available locally, health officials urge residents to look in nearby counties, such as Brown, Lawrence or Greene, that do not have the same level of demand as Monroe.

The child vaccine is also available at various pediatric offices and local pharmacies.

Is the child dose of the COVID-19 vaccine different from an adult dose?

Yes, it is different. The approved Pfizer vaccine for people aged 5-11 is only a third of the amount of an adult dosage.

Because of that, pediatricians are seeing fewer short-term side effects in that age group, Simmonds said.

More:County outpaces state in 5-11 child vaccination rate as youth COVID cases surge nationwide

People can experience pain, redness, or swelling where the injection was given. They can also have mild symptoms such as headache, muscle pain, fever, chills or fatigue. These side effects usually go away after one to two days.

“Not that there can’t be some side effects, but I think overall we’ve definitely seen less. I’ve not had, from personal reports, any of my patients report significant side effects from the vaccine,” Simmonds said.

If my child has already had COVID-19, do they need the vaccine?

Yes, children who have already had COVID-19 should still be vaccinated.

“For COVID itself, the immunity varies for that. So you may not get as long-lasting immunity (from the virus) as you might get from the vaccine, so there’s no need to wait,” Simmonds said.

According to the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, research has not yet shown how long one is protected from getting COVID-19 again after they recover.

Residents should wait until they have recovered from COVID-19 before they get the vaccine.

Can you get the flu and COVID-19 vaccines at same time?

“It is definitely fine to go ahead and get (the COVID-19 vaccine) at the same time as the flu vaccine. There’s no need to spread that apart,” Simmonds said.

Right now, Monroe County, like most areas of the country, is experiencing the height of flu season.

More:COVID cases on the rise again in Monroe County; fewer people taking protective measures

“We are seeing flu in our community right now, so it’s important to get your child the flu vaccine as soon as possible,” Simmonds said.

Several pediatric offices and clinics offer both the flu and COVID-19 vaccine in tandem.

My son has an egg allergy. Can he get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes, someone with an egg allergy can receive the vaccine. The COVID-19 vaccines that currently are authorized by the FDA, including the Pfizer vaccine, are not manufactured using egg products or egg culture.

Why should kids get vaccinated if their COVID-19 cases are mild?

Children tend to have mild cases of COVID-19, but many have been hospitalized or died as a result of COVID-19.

Currently, 25% of all COVID-19 cases nationwide are in children under the age of 18. In the United States, there were more than 20,400 hospitalizations of children as of early September and 731 child deaths due to the virus as of Nov. 24.

For the past several months, COVID-19 has been in the top 10 leading causes of death in children in the United States.

While these cases are mostly mild, children with COVID-19 can also contribute to spreading the virus around the community to infect others who are more vulnerable.

“We’ve already identified that (COVID-19) has a significant mortality in certain age groups and in people who have comorbid conditions and immune-compromised conditions, so vaccinating the healthy kids that are likely to still spread it to these people is our priority,” Laughlin said.

Are there long-term consequences of the virus or vaccine?

Even children who have mild cases of COVID-19 or are asymptomatic can run the risk of suffering long-term effects.

According to Moore, between 10% and 20% of children who have had COVID-19 also have developed “long COVID,” which can occur within three months after infection and lasts for at least two months. Some symptoms of this condition include fatigue, shortness of breath and cognitive dysfunction (commonly referred to as “brain fog”).

While younger people are more likely to be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms, the COVID-19 virus can have long-term effects such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children or long COVID.

While extremely rare, MIS-C is a serious and life-threatening condition that can occur two to six weeks after the COVID-19 infection. It prompts an autoimmune response that causes inflammation in several parts of the body, including lungs, heart, skin, kidneys, brain or stomach. According to the town hall panelists, 75% to 90% of cases have occurred in children who were considered healthy prior to COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still studying MIS-C and how it affects children; the CDC is still unsure why some children have gotten sick with MIS-C while most others have not.

Only 142 cases of MIS-C have been identified in Indiana so far.

In contrast to the virus’ long-term impact, the COVID-19 vaccine has not demonstrated any lasting negative impacts.

According to several panelists, within all the vaccines that have ever been developed, any significant long-term complications have been recognized within the first six months of it being used on the population. It is unlikely that the public will have any new long-term consequences.

In all U.S. age groups, a very low number of deaths (0.0022%) have occurred following a COVID-19 vaccination, according to the CDC, and in many of those cases something other than the vaccine may have been the cause of death.

Can kids get myocarditis from the COVID-19 vaccine?

Myocarditis occurs when the body’s immune system causes inflammation of the heart muscle in response to an infection or some other trigger, as defined by the CDC.

According to the CDC, since April 2021, there has been an increase in U.S. cases of myocarditis following COVID-19 vaccination, predominantly in male teenagers and young adults. The symptoms typically present within a few days after the vaccine, especially the second dose. The CDC and its partners are currently investigating these cases.

Most of these cases, as rare as they are, are mild and do not lead to hospitalization. Patients who seek medical care and rest have recovered very quickly.

“It’s not a reason (to) not get the vaccine,” Simmonds said.

The panelists confirmed they had not seen any report of children aged 5-11 with myocarditis after being vaccinated.

There have been some case reports of myocarditis following COVID-19 infection.

“I’ve been in multiple meetings with infectious disease experts where they’ll tell you that the virus itself is much more likely to cause myocarditis than the vaccine,” Simmonds said.

My son is turning 12 soon. Should I wait until he turns 12 to get the adult dosage, or should he get the 5-11 dosage now?

“I would not recommend waiting. I would get it as soon as you’re able to just because you’re delaying that time. You could catch it during that time that you’re waiting,” Simmonds answered.

It has also been fine to mix doses for children on that age cusp, according to Simmonds. While they are still 11, the child can receive the 5-11 vaccine dose. If they have since turned 12 when it’s time for that second shot, they can receive the adult dosage.

Should I give my child ibuprofen or Tylenol right before they get their vaccine?

“I don’t typically recommend it. I don’t think there’s really a problem with it,” Simmonds said. “My advice to my patients is if they have side effects after the vaccine, it’s fine to give Tylenol or ibuprofen if they’re achy or feverish, which does happen. At that point, give Tylenol or ibuprofen.”

Will the COVID-19 vaccine be required in schools at some point?

Laughlin said he could not say for certain whether a vaccine for COVID-19 could be required at schools.

“We don’t require flu vaccines, but we encourage them,” Laughlin added.

Laughlin, and many other health officials, hope that COVID-19 will become like other mild viruses that cause some symptoms but do not lead to serious illness.

“We also hope that more and more people will get vaccinated so that it becomes a milder virus and doesn’t continue to mutate,” Laughlin said.

How is the vaccine going to change what’s on going at school?

“I see it as the way to eventually not have to wear masks at school and to get back to normal life,” Laughlin answered.

Being fully vaccinated gives children reassurance that they are less likely to contract the virus, less likely to have symptoms if contracted and less likely to spread it to others.

“We’re hoping that if we get enough people vaccinated, we’ll have what you would refer to as ‘herd immunity’ so that it’s very unlikely to acquire the virus when you’re around other people,” Laughlin said.

What is going on with the Omicron variant? Should I wait to see if a new vaccine for Omicron comes out before getting my kids vaccinated?

Health officials still don’t know much about the newest variant, Omicron.

According to Laughlin, it appears that the Omicron variant is likely more contagious than the Delta variant, but the severity is still unknown. Over time, as it continues to spread, health officials will have more information.

“Should you wait to get the vaccine now until we know more about the Omicron variant? I would say definitely not because that’s going to take a while for any change in vaccine to come out if they do decide to change the vaccine,” Laughlin said. “We don’t even know that we’re going to need to change the vaccine to provide protection.”

So far, the FDA-approved vaccines have been highly effective in all other previous variants.

“Based on current knowledge, there’s no reason to wait,” Laughlin concluded.

How can I protect my kids who are younger than 5?

Pfizer is currently conducting clinical trials of its vaccine in children ages 6 months to 4 years. Laughlin estimated that the vaccine for that age group could be approved in late winter or early spring of 2022.

In the meantime, families are encouraged to get their children aged 5 and older vaccinated to protect their younger siblings.

Residents are also encouraged to be masked where unvaccinated people might be, such as community gatherings. Monroe County currently has a health order that requires masking, regardless of vaccination status, in indoor public spaces.

Any news on vaccine boosters for kids?

“I think that boosters likely will be necessary. We don’t know that yet,” More said. “We started giving vaccine to 12- to 15-year-olds in May, so we will have six months of information on that pretty soon.”

A COVID booster shot is an additional dose of the vaccine some time following the original dosages, which have demonstrated decreased protection over time.

“With a lot of the world yet to be vaccinated, including many people in the United States, it’s likely that there will be more variants over time, and if they are more transmissible and whatever the severity is, we may need boosters. To this point, the vaccine that we have right now is really very protective for most all of us,” Moore said.

The current recommendation by the CDC is anyone over 18 should receive a booster shot six months after their second shot.

Residents interested in watching the full town hall can find a recording on https://catstv.net/.

Contact Rachel Smith at [email protected] or @RachelSmithNews on Twitter.

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