Medical experts weigh in on rollout of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children in Minnesota | KAALTV.com

Medical experts weigh in on rollout of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children in Minnesota

Rich Reeve
Updated: November 03, 2021 11:06 PM
Created: November 03, 2021 10:54 PM

Wednesday was a big day for a group of children at the Mall of America. They were among the very first 5- to 11-year-olds in Minnesota to get their Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.

"It helps us get one step closer to normalcy for our kids,” said Dr. Andrea Singh, chairperson of pediatrics at Park Nicollet Health. “Less distance learning and being at home, which we know has disrupted a lot of our kids’ lives.”

The first 500 slots at the mall's clinic filled up quickly.

The Minnesota Department of Health says 200,000 more doses are on the way — with some hospitals, pharmacies and clinics already setting up for appointments in the next few days.

The rollout comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention signed off on Pfizer’s kid-sized doses.

It’s a two-dose series, three weeks apart; both shots are a third of the adult dose.

“We’ve had 45,000 pediatric cases just since July in Minnesota alone,” MDH Commissioner Jan Malcolm told reporters. “Thankfully, the percentage of cases that are severe is quite low, but it still adds up to a lot; 300 children hospitalized in Minnesota. I just heard last night the CDC now says COVID-19 is one of the top 10 pediatric causes of death in the United States. So this is a big deal.”

Gov. Tim Walz is calling the availability of the child doses a "true game-changer."

He says there are about 500,000 Minnesota kids who can now get it — and he’s encouraging parents to get their children vaccinated.

“This is all about making sure our kids can be kids. that they stay in school, they get to have childhood, they get to have the sleepovers,” the governor said. “The only way you do that is by beating this thing and this virus or this vaccine to this virus is the way to beat that."

Right now, Singh says she’s hearing a lot of questions from patients about the vaccine for kids.

"It is new, and when new things come to the marketplace, it's our parental responsibility to ask questions to try to figure things out,” she explained. “Parents honestly want to do the right thing for their kids."

A new poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found only 27% of parents aged with kids aged 5-11 say they will vaccinate "right away." Another 33%, according to the poll, want to "wait and see" how the vaccine works in others before getting their kids vaccinated. The poll also says about 66% are concerned about potential long-term and serious side effects.

Singh says the health benefits of getting the vaccine for your kids outweigh doing nothing.

"We have good information that the COVID vaccine and what they've come up with in terms of the dosing structure for the 5-to 11-year-olds is safe and effective,” she noted.

Singh says some parents are asking about long-term side effects. She worries that kids who don’t get the vaccine could become long-haulers.

“A vast majority of kids out there with COVID disease, they’re sick for a few days and they feel better, but there are definitely kids that don’t,” Singh said. “We certainly are seeing kids that have gotten long-hauler syndrome, where they still have symptoms persistent six or nine months out. You hear that a lot about that with adults. We're starting to see it in kids, unfortunately, too.”

But why did it take months longer to develop a vaccine for kids than adults?

Singh says for researchers, there was a delicate balance.

“They were really trying to figure out what dose was for these younger kids,” she said. “Where you would get a robust immune response that you could fight the COVID infection, but not overstimulate the immune system so that you got a lot of side effects.”

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS asked Singh about concerns about the heart inflammation, known as myocarditis, in younger patients after getting the vaccine.

But, she and other health experts say that’s occurred only in a small group of older teen and adult males.

They add among 3,100 kids aged 5 to 11 who received the vaccine in clinical trials over the summer, none experienced serious side effects, including that heart condition.

“That incidence of myocarditis or pericarditis is way more common if you get COVID disease than if you get the vaccine,” Singh said.

Doctors at Mayo Clinic recommend, for those who get their child vaccinated, to prepare beforehand.

“Usually, I recommend parents talk to the children in the days before the vaccination coming up,” said Dr. Robert Jacobson, a pediatrician and vaccine specialist. “You should explain to the child that the pain of the injection will come and go, but the benefits are long-lasting. Teach them that the vaccine teaches the body to defend itself against the germs and the harm that these germs do.”

Jacobson suggests that parents do not massage the injection site on their child, but instead consider a mild pain killer, ice packs or even a nap.

Singh adds getting your kids the vaccine will not only keep them healthy — it will also help others, she says.

"Kids are the ones that are transmitting COVID in our community,” she said. “So if you have anybody that might be potentially vulnerable in your community, in your world, in your bubble, then getting more kids vaccinated will protect those people from future infection, serious illness, and death."


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