Vaccinations finally are available to U.S. children as young as 5, to the relief of some parents even as others have questions or fears.
Late Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the final OK for youngsters age 5 to 11 to get kid-size doses of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its partner BioNTech. Pediatricians and other doctors’ groups praised the move and are gearing up to help families decide whether to vaccinate their children.
The shots could be available as soon as Wednesday and will be offered at pediatricians offices, clinics and pharmacies. Like COVID-19 vaccines for adults, they are free.
Here are some things to know:
SHOULD ELEMENTARY SCHOOL-AGED CHILDREN GET VACCINATED?
Yes, according to U.S. health authorities and leading doctors’ groups. Even though the virus tends to be more severe in adults than children, COVID-19 is causing plenty of preventable suffering among youngsters. About 1.9 million kids ages 5 to 11 have been diagnosed with COVID-19. Some 8,300 have been hospitalized, about a third needed intensive care, and at least 94 deaths have been verified.
That’s not counting the risk of a serious complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome that can hit kids several weeks after they recovered from even a mild infection.
Vaccination also promises to help kids more safely resume school and social activities.
ARE KID DOSES THE SAME SIZE AS ADULT ONES?
No. Children ages 5 to 11 will receive a third of the dose given to teens and adults. That’s 10 micrograms per shot for youngsters, compared to 30 micrograms per shot for everyone 12 and older. Like everybody else, the younger kids will get two shots, three weeks apart.
HOW WELL DO THE SHOTS WORK?
In a study, Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine proved nearly 91% effective at preventing symptomatic infection. Vaccinated youngsters developed levels of virus-fighting antibodies as strong as teens and young adults who’d received the full-strength dose.
ARE THERE SIDE EFFECTS?
In the trial, the 5- to 11-year-olds had some annoying post-shot reactions, including sore arms and fatigue, similar to teens and young adults but were less likely to have fevers. Altogether, the study includes 4,600 youngsters, 3,100 of them given the vaccine and the rest dummy shots. The FDA found no safety concerns.
WHAT ABOUT RARE PROBLEMS?
Tens of millions of the larger doses have been given safely to Americans 12 and older. One very rare serious side effect has come to light: heart inflammation.
These rare reactions have occurred mostly in young men or teens boys, usually after the second dose, and they tend to recover quickly. To put the risk in context, doctors say COVID-19 infection can cause more serious heart inflammation. One theory is that testosterone and puberty play a role, which is partly why experts expect any risk to younger kids would be even lower.
WHAT IF MY CHILD IS ABOUT TO TURN 12?
CDC said children should get the dose that’s right for their age on the day of vaccination. So if a child gets the 10-microgram dose for the first shot and then turns 12, the second shot should be the 30-microgram dose.
SHOULD I JUST WAIT UNITL THEIR 12TH BIRTHDAY SO BOTH SHOTS ARE THE BIGGER DOSE?
Pediatricians say not to postpone vaccination because the kid-size dose is effective in that age group.
IS THE CDC’S MOVE A MANDATE?
No. The CDC has not mandated vaccinations for youngsters, but recommended them.
AREN’T ONLY SOME KIDS AT HIGH RISK OF SERIOUS COVID-19?
Nearly 70% of 5- to 11-year-olds hospitalized for COVID-19 have had other medical problems, including obesity and asthma. But sometimes the otherwise healthy get seriously ill, too. And given the profound social, mental health and educational impact the pandemic has had on youngsters, health authorities made clear that all children should be vaccinated. There also are equity concerns, as more than two-thirds of youngsters who’ve been hospitalized are Black or Hispanic.
WHAT IF MY CHILD ALREADY HAD COVID-19?
They still should be vaccinated once they’ve recovered, according the CDC. It’s clear that prior infection does provide some protection against another bout but that immunity can vary depending on how seriously ill someone was, and how long ago. Studies of adults have found that vaccination after infection can dramatically boost protection.
IS PFIZER’S VACCINE THE ONLY CHOICE FOR CHILDREN?
In the U.S., for now, it is. Moderna’s similar vaccine is used by teens in some other countries and is being tested in younger children but isn’t yet available for Americans under age 18. A few other countries have used other kinds of COVID-19 vaccines in young children, including China, which just began vaccinations for 3-year-olds.
WHAT ABOUT VACCINATIONS FOR U.S. CHILDREN YOUNGER THAN 5?
Stay tuned: Pfizer and Moderna are testing low doses in babies and preschoolers.
The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Lauran Neergaard, The Associated Press
No new Covid-19 cases reported in Northwest Territories – Cabin Radio
The NWT on Friday reported no new cases of Covid-19, only the third day of reporting to come back blank since the territory’s latest Delta-variant outbreak began in mid-August.
The active case count across the territory dropped from 42 to 35. Twenty-eight are in Tuktoyaktuk – which now has a rabies warning to contend with – while four are in Yellowknife and one each in Inuvik, Norman Wells, and Hay River.
There was no change to the number of hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, or deaths.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization on Friday dubbed the globe’s latest variant of concern Omicron.
Omicron, identified in South Africa, has a large number of mutations. Early evidence suggests it could be significantly more transmissible than Delta and present an increased reinfection risk.
However, the amount of evidence related to Omicron is low. The variant was only identified last week and the number of cases studied to date numbers in the low dozens.
Some countries, including Canada, moved swiftly on Friday to impose travel restrictions on South Africa and neighbouring nations.
Canada currently has no direct flights to or from the affected region, but nevertheless banned the entry of all foreign nationals who have travelled through South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, or Eswatini in the past 14 days.
Some observers criticized the rush to travel bans, arguing South Africa was in effect being punished for operating a particularly effective variant surveillance program.
Kids on P.E.I. receive first vaccinations against COVID-19 – CBC.ca
One hundred and thirty children in P.E.I. received the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday — the first day the shot was available to five to 11-year-olds.
A pediatric vaccine clinic was held at the County Fair Mall in Summerside, P.E.I.
“I think it’s important because it can help protect others,” said 10-year-old Alex DesRoche. “I was worried that I’d get COVID and spread it to my papa … because he has cancer.”
Her mom, Robin DesRosche, is happy to have gotten her daughter vaccinated.
“At any point in time, something can weigh in on your family and if you can do anything to try to prevent it, as a parent, I would,” said DesRoche.
There are 13,000 kids in the five to 11 age group in the province, and 2,500 have appointments booked so far.
Madeline Goguen, 10, said she was a little nervous to get the shot, but in the end, she said it didn’t hurt and was well worth it.
“I’m excited because it’s been a while since I’ve gone on vacation,” Goguen said. “It was just quick. It was a tiny pinch and that was it.”
Getting the vaccine will make going to see her dad in New Brunswick less stressful, she said.
“Every time that I had to get tested I was always worried,” said Goguen.
Her mother, LeAnne Weeks, shares that sense of relief.
“Now that Madeline is done, that’s our whole family, and we’re just excited that we feel safe now,” Weeks said.
The clinic has been set up just for kids and other community clinics will be too. With decorations from the movie Frozen and a free toy with every shot, it’s about making the kids feel more comfortable.
“I think kids and adults too are a little bit nervous about coming and getting needles, even if they know they really want it, and need it,” said Marion Dowling, chief of nursing on P.E.I.
“We just want to make it as welcoming as possible, and try to give them a bit of privacy with the stations, so they can sit as a family unit, and have the conversation, ask any questions they might have too, and be comfortable.”
PEI’s chief public health officer made an appearance at the clinic on Friday. Dr. Heather Morrison said she’s pleased to see so many parents booking shots for their children.
“I almost got goosebumps in there. There are children who are excited, there are parents who are that excited. Just to be a part of it was pretty special” Morrison said.
In a survey by the province, about 70 per cent of parents said they would get their child vaccinated, while others said they were undecided.
Morrison said she thinks word of mouth will convince many of them to sign up.
“We know it can influence others if we know that your friends have booked their vaccine,” she said.
“I saw children here today wearing stickers saying, ‘I got my COVID vaccine.’ They will start talking amongst their friends that ‘I got mine, and it feels good.'”
Five community clinics across P.E.I. are currently offering the vaccine for five to 11-year-olds.
In the new year, the plan is to set up school clinics for kids in grades four to six.
UK COVID genomics head says new variant likely to come to UK
A ban on flights from southern Africa came into force in Britain on Friday, and numerous other countries also restricted travel from the region.
“(B.1.1.529 is) something that I would guess is likely to be transmitted into the UK at some point, but it buys that time,” COG-UK Chair Sharon Peacock told reporters.
“I think buying time is important and it’s worthwhile, because we can find out what we need to know about that particular variant.”
Speaking at a briefing with other experts, Peacock praised the quick work of South African scientists who shared what they knew about the variant after a surge in cases centred on Gauteng province.
That early warning could be crucial in preventing the variant taking over rapidly from the Delta variant as the world’s dominant one, even as South Africa bristles at the swift imposition of barriers to travel.
“This is a different circumstance than Delta, and there might be some hope for maybe some amount of containment,” said Jeffrey Barrett, Director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.
“The difference really is that the surveillance was so good in South Africa and other nearby countries that they found this, understood that it was a problem, and told the world extremely fast.”
Peacock said it was important not to assume that the variant had arisen in South Africa just because it had been detected there.
“Variants will fly under the radar in countries where there’s no sequencing capability,” she said.
A distinctive trait known as an “S-gene target failure”, which distinguishes the new variant from Delta, means that PCR tests can give a clue to the presence of the new variant without full genomic sequencing.
However, Wendy Barclay, a virologist who leads the UK National Virology Consortium G2P-UK, cautioned that some other variants also had the trait.
Many parts of Europe have been struggling with high and rising COVID rates for weeks, but Barrett said these were unlikely to be driven by B.1.1.529, even in places with less sequencing.
“They are consistently finding a mix of Delta variant, basically,” he said.
(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
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