This week on the Minnesota Native News health report, we learn more about COVID-19 vaccines for children. Reporter Dalton Walker explains in this week’s story.
Our littlest students may be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine soon. Children ages 5 to 11 are expected to be the next group up to be cleared to get the vaccine.
A question that remains is when. It’s unclear exactly but health experts expect it could be late October or early November. If so, it would be nearly a year since the vaccine’s emergency use authorization for our elders and most vulnerable population.
Melissa Wentz Opsahl is a COVID-19 specialist with the Bemidji Area Indian Health Service. She has nearly three decades of service with the federal agency and is a longtime pharmacist.
Last week, she gave us an update on the COVID-19 booster shot. This week, we learn more about potential vaccine options for children.
What we know about the children’s vaccine so far is that it will be the Pfizer version, at least initially since it’s further along in the review process. Other types of vaccines could follow later.
“That 5-12-year-old age group, from what I understand, it is going to be a smaller dose than that in which we use for patients 12 and up. I don’t have the available information to determine exactly what that dose is, but I can share that Pfizer in particular since that will be the product under review currently, they’re developing, it’s the same product, but they are developing different packaging for it so that it’s much more easy to determine what the correct dose will be,” said Opsahl.
Even though children rarely become severely ill, a coronavirus shot is still recommended. According to a New York Times report, 125 children ages 5 to 11 have died from COVID-19 and most recently, 30,000 were hospitalized in August mainly due to the Delta variant.
Smaller bodies usually means smaller doses. For pharmacists like Wentz Otsahl, this is especially important.
“As a pharmacist, I can tell you that’s very important to assure that when you’re creating dose preparation that if you do have different doses available for different age ranges that you try to separate that out as much as possible just to minimize any potential for medication errors,” said Opsahl.
If you haven’t gotten the vaccine yet or fall into an age group not yet eligible, safety tips remain the same since the start of the pandemic. Wentz Otsahl has a few reminders as we move to more time indoors for the colder months.
“It’s all of the things that we were doing prior to the availability of covid-19 vaccine such as wearing a mask, frequent hand washing, staying away from others that are sick, staying away from your work or your school if you yourself are sick, according to CDC recommendations, and then of course, social distancing, which is going to be extremely important for us as we consider our area specifically moving into the fall and winter months. We naturally are going to be much closer together and indoors then the freedoms that we had during the summer,” said Opsahl.
For the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines, contact your local health professional, check the state and federal health websites.
Dalton Walker reporting for Minnesota Native News