4/12/21                                                                                               

Dear Parents and Caregivers,

       There has been enormous progress in the prevention of COVID-19 in patients under 18 years old and many of you are wondering what you need to know about the science and availability of vaccines for children.   We have been closely monitoring the development of pediatric and adolescent vaccines and anticipate emergency use approval over the coming months for various age groups.  Clinical studies for vaccines in 12-16 year olds have concluded and are pending approval.   Now studies down to 6 months have entered final Phase 2/3 trials which evaluate dosing, safety and efficacy.

Who is currently eligible and who is next?

Current FDA Emergency Approval is as follows:

The 12-15 year old clinical trials are concluding and initial results are incredible with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine preventing 100% of COVID disease in this age group (n=3000).   Side effects were comparable to adults including headache, soreness and fever.

It appears that as early as May/June this age group of 12-15 years will be authorized for emergency use.

Lastly, 11 years down to 6 months are in trial similar to the recently completed trials noted above.  It is possible that the dosing may change for the younger age group.  However, we expect that these products will be found to be safe and effective and could be available as early as this fall.

Will Heritage Pediatrics be administering COVID vaccine?

We are an state approved site for vaccination for COVID-19 but have yet to initiate this until enough of our population is eligible.   Currently, the state allocates large lots (minimum of 1100 doses for Pfizer) and thus we don’t yet have numbers needed to accept such a large lot.   However, once emergency authorization is approved for 12 years and older we will make all efforts to coordinate vaccine administration at our office as supply allows.   Our initial plan is to implement a scheduled drive thru similar to last fall’s influenza drive thru clinic.

Does my child really need this vaccine?

As with all medicines and vaccines, a health decision balances the risks with benefits of any treatment.  The eligible vaccines have now been given to hundreds of millions of adults and thousands of teenagers.  The side effects in teenagers are similar to adults and are fever, chills, injection soreness and headache.   Rarely, allergic reactions can occur.   These reactions remain more common with the second dose and dissipate in 1-2 days.  While new medicines and therapies by definition have no long-term data, there is no compelling reason to expect any long-term side effects that would outweigh the benefits based on the science of mRNA and vector vaccines.  

The benefits are not all self-apparent and can broadly be divided into two categories.

Benefit to your child:   COVID 19 disease clearly poses a higher risk of severe disease in adults than children.  However, children are not immune from severe disease or consequence.  Thousands of young patients have been hospitalized with severe COVID19 during this pandemic.  As of December 2020, 179 children had died of COVID 19.  This includes healthy children and newborns down to 1 month age. Vaccinating children and teenagers will prevent them from the rare cases of severe COVID disease.   It also appears that vaccination will prevent them from developing MIS-C, a rare but life-threatening inflammatory condition that occurs many weeks after the primary coronavirus infection.  Lastly, vaccination as a youth will reduce the higher complication rate if they are re-exposed in adulthood. 

Benefit to your community:  A second benefit which is of critical importance in vaccinating children is the protection of community.   While a child might have a mild illness, they may still pass their infection on to a higher risk member of society.   Nearly every vaccine in our standard vaccination schedule is based on this concept of herd immunity.   Since 24% of our US population is under 18, it we will not be able to reach heard immunity in the next few years without pediatric vaccination.  The sooner we achieve this, the sooner we can safely return to our social way of life without endangering those who can’t be vaccinated (newborns, allergies and immunosuppressed).

We understand you may still have many questions about all of this.  As more data is published and peer reviewed, we hope to provide you with posts, emails, and in-office conversations that help clarify your questions. 

Sincerely,

Graham T. Hall, MD                                             John T. Fitch, MD

John T. Gibson, MD                                             Joshua C. Tardy, MD