UK HealthCare experts talk through COVID-19 vaccines for children
Recently, Dr. Dan Grantz – Senior Director of UK HealthCare Retail & Community Pharmacy – and Dr. Lindsay Ragsdale – Interim Chief Medical Officer for Kentucky Children's Hospital – discussed the new UK HealthCare Pediatric Vaccine Clinic.
Read edited excerpts from their podcast interview below, and listen to the entire podcast by clicking on the link near the bottom of this page.
Kids age 5-11 can now be vaccinated against COVID-19. Which vaccine will be offered by the UK Healthcare Peds Clinic?
Grantz: This will be the Pfizer BioNTech product and the concentration of it's a little bit smaller than the adult (product). It's a 10-microgram dose and a 0.2 mL amount that we inject into the arm.
Which medical organizations have endorsed the vaccine for children, and how did they reach that decision?
Ragsdale: I think there's been so much thought (put) into thinking about, “How do we make sure we can safely give a COVID vaccine to children?”
Pfizer applied for an emergency-use authorization through the FDA and that was granted. And then… there's lots of steps in trying to make sure that we have safety.
The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practice thoroughly vetted all of the data. They dig into every single patient in their trial, and really overwhelmingly in that committee said, absolutely, the risks are low, the safety is really good and the benefits are huge for kids in this age range. The CDC endorsed as an institution the emergency use authorization. (Also) the American Academy of Pediatrics, Gynecology and Obstetrics.
So, really, many medical organizations have endorsed this vaccine. It's been based on a lot of really sound data. They did it in a fashion that was really closely observed and had a lot of oversight, so a very sound process.
COVID appears to be less of a threat to children than the older population, so why do you believe parents should get their kids vaccinated?
Ragsdale: We really have seen kids in this age range get sick, be hospitalized. There have been serious consequences and even some kids have died in this age range. So, it's really impossible to tell, at this point, which child is going to get infected and which isn't.
And this past surge from the summer until September, October, we have seen an enormous increase in the amount of kids that we have admitted to children's hospitals. Even here in Kentucky, our Kentucky Children's Hospital has seen a six-fold increase in children being admitted to our hospital compared to the whole pandemic in the year before. So, this is a serious effect on kids this age range and we would like to protect them. I mean, this vaccine is our best shot at protection.
What sort of short-term side effects might children experience?
Grantz: I believe a lot of the side effects that we experienced with this vaccine are flu-like symptoms, in the sense that they're going to feel tired, maybe sleepy. And then, as their body mounts that immune response, they might have a runny nose or they might feel run down. The good news is because it's a vaccine and your body's using its own immune system to respond to that, you actually overcome that pretty quickly. And because the vaccine is such that it's not the live actual COVID virus, (their) body can overcome that within about 24 to 48 hours, as opposed to several weeks or days that it could drag on.
I get a lot of questions about infertility, where parents are sort of scared about the long-term effects or maybe even short-term effects in some cases, of infertility for their children. I just want to point out that right now, those claims have been scientifically disproven.
Where is the clinic located and what can parents expect the process to be like?
Ragsdale: It's located at 245 Fountain Court in Lexington. It's on the first floor. You'll see signs. It's open Monday through Friday, 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. We're specifically targeting time after school. We want to make sure that this is family-friendly and we’re thinking about their timeframes. Register (your child) online at ukvaccine.org.
Grantz: Kids will arrive with their parents. They'll come into the building and be received by a registration desk. There is a process to check in, so (parents) will be asked for their kids’ name and birthday, and that sort of thing.
The whole process takes about 30 to 45 minutes, but really the longest part of that is the waiting. After we administer the vaccine, they will have to remain in a waiting area for 15 minutes for monitoring. We have staff onsite to make sure that they don't have an allergic reaction or any serious side effects. At the end, (the kids) will get to pick a toy or a sticker.
Ragsdale: I would love to add on about our sensory room. We've really been thoughtful to make sure that we can offer vaccines in a safe and welcoming environment to kids that might need additional support. Our sensory room has a special light machine that can help with distraction, calming. We have a child life specialist that can come in and meet the child and family and find out what has worked for them in the past. We have a kind of freezy spray, that some kids are calling Elsa spray, that they can spray on the arm before they get an injection.
We've really been thoughtful all the way through about how to help kids that might need extra support. And those rooms have been really key. The child life specialists can actually come to any booth in our vaccine site, and we have heard from families that that's been a very helpful support. We're training all of our staff to make sure that we're listening to kids and their parents about what might be most helpful. How do you hold the child? What do they want? (We) really talk to them, and that's really been a great environment for them.