The vaccine regimen for children from 5 – 11 is two shots, each one-third the dose given to adults and teens and administered three weeks apart. No cases of myocarditis, or heart inflammation, were reported in the Pfizer trial.
Lindsay Neptune, a nurse practitioner and Director of Clinical Services at Open Door Family Medical Center’s Nita Lowey Center for Health in Schools, answers some commonly asked questions.
I have many parents who have been asking me when the vaccine will be available for their child under 12. I do believe that many of the parents of my patients are eager to have their younger children vaccinated. I think they see it as a step forward in preventing many of the situations that occurred as a result of large scale outbreaks, including online learning and reduction in school programs, sports, other extracurricular activities outside of school, and care for children outside of school hours.
I also think that they don't want to go backwards in a way that causes children to have to be home for extended periods of time and suffer with the struggles they've experienced with online learning. I also think that many of our parents will feel safer when their entire families are vaccinated to do things like travel and see other family members and friends who they may not have been able to see throughout these challenging months.
Which children between the ages of 5 and 12 should not get vaccinated?
Current guidance suggests that the contraindications to vaccination include a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) after a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or to any of its components, and immediate allergic reaction of any severity to a previous dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine or any of its components, and immediate allergic reaction of any severity to polysorbate (as found in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine).
If parents have any questions about their specific child and their ability to receive a vaccine, I would encourage them to speak with their child's healthcare provider.
Once these children are vaccinated, should this relax mask wearing in schools?
I would continue to watch the guidance from the CDC as we start to move forward with pediatric vaccinations and increasing the percentage of the population that is vaccinated. However, I believe that until a large percentage of the population of the school and the community is fully vaccinated (received both doses of the vaccine and passed the two-week post-vaccination period), mask wearing should continue in schools.
We have to remember that mask wearing helps to prevent individuals not only from getting sick but also from spreading the virus to others. Wearing masks has proven to keep our students and schools safe. According to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, schools that have had masks in place were 3 1/2 times less likely to have school outbreaks requiring school closures. As we head into the winter weather months, we need to remain vigilant in protecting our school students and communities.
Are you seeing much in the way of children getting sick from Covid?
Not at present. Both the Ossining and Port Chester school districts where we are located are requiring mask wearing in schools this year as well as encouraging vaccination in all groups who are currently approved to receive the vaccine. This seems to be very helpful in preventing infections in our school students. The school districts all follow protocols for quarantine and testing recommendations that are worked out with guidance from the NYS Department of Health and they continue to do some surveillance testing as well.
Have you seen much in the way of adverse reactions to the vaccine among children?
In children ages 12 and older (the age range the COVID vaccine has been approved for so far) I have not seen any adverse reactions so far. I have had patients who have complained of some of the common side effects including pain at the injection site, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain. Very similar to side effects experienced by children following other routine vaccines, such as the flu vaccine. Typically, these symptoms improve in 1-3 days and can be symptomatically managed with over the counter medication for pain or fever.
The Nita M. Lowey Center for Health in Schools provides primary health care services for 4600 students in elementary, middle and high schools in Port Chester and Ossining. Services are available regardless of a family’s ability to pay and there are no out-of-pocket costs.