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Push to get kids vaccinated as cases increase among children

Posted: 4:36 PM, Nov 08, 2021
Updated: 2021-11-09 00:28:16-05
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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — According to the Kern County Public Health Department, almost 600 kids ages five through 11 in Kern County have already received their first dose of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine since it was approved last Tuesday.

The vaccine trial tested the vaccine in around 4,000 kids among this age group and showed a 91 percent success rate in preventing symptomatic cases of COVID-19.

In California, 30 children have died from COVID-19, and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), because the virus keeps mutating children are at an increased risk for hospitalization. Not to mention the long-term effects common in children.

"I have in my care two patients who have had MIS (Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome) and two that have long COVID symptoms," said Dr. Kelly Hughes, a pediatrician and associate medical director at Omni Family Health. "So they are 10 months out and they still can’t taste or smell, or they still are fatigued or have a sore throat. So yes, as much as it is rare, if that is your child it is pretty significant."

What is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome?

Multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs. We do not yet know what causes MIS-C. However, we know that many children with MIS-C had the virus that causes COVID-19, or had been around someone with COVID-19. MIS-C can be serious, even deadly, but most children who were diagnosed with this condition have gotten better with medical care.

- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dr. Hughes is a mother herself and said her 11-year-old was excited to get the vaccine. Her 5-year-old was not as pumped about getting a shot but she said she was fine after, and as a parent, Dr. Hughes was relieved.

Dr. Hughes said her 11-year-old son had COVID 3 weeks ago and like other parents in this situation, considered if she should wait to vaccinate him.

"When he gets exposed next time, he doesn’t have to quarantine. He doesn’t have to stay home for two weeks."

Dr. Hughes also said her children exhibited very little reaction to the vaccine.

Why Children and Teens Should Get Vaccinated for COVID-19

While COVID-19 tends to be milder in children compared with adults, it can make children very sick and cause children to be hospitalized. In some situations, the complications from infection can lead to death.

Although children are at a lower risk of becoming severely ill with COVID-19 compared with adults, children can

  • Be infected with the virus that causes COVID-19
  • Get very sick from COVID-19
  • Have both short and long-term health complications from COVID-19
  • Spread COVID-19 to others

Children with underlying medical conditions are more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with children without underlying medical conditions. Children who get infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 can also develop serious complications like multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C)—a condition where different body parts become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs.

- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The push to get kids vaccinated comes at a time when the COVID dashboard for the Bakersfield City School District shows a bump in positive cases in October.

Not everyone has the vaccine available right now. But Michelle Corson with the public health department says Kern County has plenty and is prepared to vaccinate this age group.

"We also have a coloring station set up for kids because there are 15 minutes or 30 that you need to wait during the observation time post-vaccination and so we have set up activities where kids can sit socially distanced and color."

Corson also discussed the importance of speaking with your pediatrician and making sure your information comes from reliable sources.

Dr. Hughes agreed, saying there are a lot of misconceptions often found online that parents have brought up as a concern. One of those is infertility.

"Infertility is not something that happens. It does not stay around in your body. It does not incorporate into your children’s DNA. It is not something we see with the disease so why would you ever see it with the vaccine anyway."

Facts About COVID-19 mRNA Vaccines

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines cannot give someone the virus that causes COVID-19 or other viruses.

  • mRNA vaccines do not use the live virus that causes COVID-19 and cannot cause infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 or other viruses.

They do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way.

  • mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell where our DNA (genetic material) is located, so it cannot change or influence our genes.

The mRNA and the spike protein don’t last long in the body.

  • Our cells break down mRNA and get rid of it within a few days after vaccination.
  • Scientists estimate that the spike protein, like other proteins our bodies create, may stay in the body up to a few weeks.

- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The vaccine for children is just 1/3 of the adult dose. It is a two-part vaccine with three weeks in between.

Dr. Hughes said with the holidays coming up it is a good idea to do it sooner so your kids can have some protection when those gatherings begin.

The child dosage is available at select clinics and pediatricians across Kern County.

One of those is at the Kern County Fairgrounds which opens at 10:30 a.m. in the morning where they will also have the flu shot available.

The clinic at the fairgrounds has administered 593 doses to kids 5 to 11 and over the weekend Omni Family Health also had a vaccine clinic in Tehachapi geared towards kids.

The vaccine is known to cause some discomfort like fever, body aches, and fatigue. But Dr. Hughes said there are a couple of reasons why kids are not showing as many reactions to the shot.

"Kids’ bodies are meant to make that immunity for life, so we are seeing that where they can mount a good immune response as equal to the adults, with 1/3 of the dose. Which also means that there are a lot fewer problems with it in terms of getting the fever and getting fatigued."

Dr. Hughes added parents should also not pre-medicate their children before they get their shot.

"You don’t want to give them Motrin or Tylenol before they get the shot because you don’t know how they are going to respond. And if they will get a fever, if they are going to get the pain, it is going to happen 8, 12, 24 hours later so you just give them medication that is not needed."

Preparing Children and Teens for Vaccination

The experience of getting a COVID-19 vaccine will be very similar to the experience of getting routine vaccines. Use our tips to support your child before, during, and after routine vaccinations when they get a COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Talk to your child before vaccination about what to expect.
  • It is not recommended you give pain relievers before vaccination to try to prevent side effects.
  • Tell the doctor or nurse about any allergies your child may have.
  • To prevent fainting and injuries related to fainting, your child should be seated or lying down during vaccination and for 15 minutes after the vaccine is given.
  • After your child’s COVID-19 vaccination, you will be asked to stay for 15–30 minutes so your child can be observed in case they have a severe allergic reaction and need immediate treatment.

- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

But what happens if your child is right at the cut-off and takes the lower dose now but turns 12 by the time the second dose is due?

"They would get the 11-year-old dose now and the 12-year-old dose later, when they do turn 12," explained Dr. Hughes.

But she noted the American Academy of Pediatrics has said go ahead and stay with the lower dose, so she recommends parents reach out to their child's physician and consider their child’s health history.

The Kern County Public Health Department echoed that as well, for any concerns parents might have.

"This is a trusted source, this is a relationship you have established, and ask your questions because there is so much misinformation online and we want to really warn families to not seek all your information online or social media but to talk to your doctor," said Corson.

Because the vaccine dosage is different, not all vaccine providers have it available just yet. You can find which ones do in Kern County online.