COVID-19 vaccines for children 5 to 11 start rolling out in Routt County (with video) |

COVID-19 vaccines for children 5 to 11 start rolling out in Routt County (with video)

The long wait to have COVID-19 vaccines available for children is over, meaning the roughly 2,000 children age 5 to 11 in Routt County can start getting their shots right away — though appointments are not yet plentiful.

Like the larger vaccine rollout for adults, pediatric vaccines are expected to take a few weeks to be available everywhere, but local pediatricians and family practice doctors are already starting to get limited supplies of the shots with pharmacies scheduled to begin getting them next week.

“We will see the cadence of pediatric vaccine deliveries start to pick up in a couple of weeks,” said Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith at a Steamboat Conversations panel about child vaccines Thursday. “Patience at the beginning — we will get enough vaccine.”

There are several child vaccine clinics scheduled around the county for next weekend, though all the spots in a clinic planned for Nov. 12 at Strawberry Park Elementary School quickly filled up.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave emergency use authorization to Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine Tuesday after trials showed the vaccine to have a 91% efficacy rate, even though it is a smaller dose.

The approval comes as cases of COVID-19 are once again increasing in Routt County and across Colorado, even as the opposite trend is happening nationwide. Like the spike in cases after the start of school, positivity rates among school-aged children are more than double the rates of the rest of residents.

“COVID-19 is not over, and children who are 5 to 11 years old have a real burden from this disease,” said Dr. Ronald Krall, a former chief medical officer of British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline.

Since the start of the pandemic, in the U.S., more than 8,300 children age 5 to 11 have been hospitalized, 2,300 have been diagnosed with multi-system inflammatory syndrome, and 94 have died from COVID-19.

In the conversation hosted by Steamboat Pilot & Today, medical officials strongly recommended that children get the vaccine, saying it cannot only help protect them from the virus, but it can also help with mental health struggles endured by children through the pandemic.

“About one in 500 children in the U.S. have lost a caregiver to COVID,” said Dana Fitzgerld, a Steamboat pediatrician and chief of staff at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. “We get very scared of kids becoming very, very ill from COVID-19, but the mental health aspect is a huge part of it.”

While children generally have more mild cases of the virus, Dr. Jessica Cataldi, a pediatrician and infectious disease expert with a focus in vaccines from the Children’s Hospital Colorado, said some children do get severe COVID-19.

Cataldi said children with obesity, living in larger households or those with breathing problems, such as asthma or sleep apnea, are more likely to be infected with COVID-19 and to have longer stays in the hospital. Still, about 45% of hospitalized children did not have any underlying illness.

“Kids are people, too,” Cataldi said. “They deserve to be protected from the suffering that can come from being sick with COVID. … Just because they are at a lower risk than adults doesn’t mean they’re at zero risk, and this is still a real risk for kids who should have a happy and healthy childhood.”

When looking at other diseases, Cataldi said COVID-19 has similar rates of hospitalization as chickenpox and influenza.

“The rate of hospitalization per 100,000 kids for COVID is really within that range of these other vaccine preventable diseases that we try to protect children from,” Cataldi said. “Thankfully, the rate of death from COVID in this age group is low but not zero.”

Still, the 66 deaths among children 5 to 11 would rank within the top 10 causes of death for children that age.

“For protecting children for their own health, COVID is as much of a threat as these other things that we have worked hard to protect them from in the past,” Cataldi said.

Krall said Pfizer conducted two studies in three different groups of children age 5 to 11. The first study was meant to figure out what dosage of the vaccine would be best for children, with the second looking to seek the efficacy of the shots.

The child dose is 10 micrograms, smaller than the adult COVID-19 shot and does not need to be kept in ultra-cold storage. Like with adults, the two shots need to be spaced three weeks apart.

“Essentially, these children received a boost in their COVID-19 antibodies that was almost identical to what was seen in the older age groups,” Krall said.

Children who already had COVID-19 should still get the vaccine, Krall said. About 10% of children in trials had already had COVID-19, and they showed an even stronger immune response than other children.

About 75% of children had pain at the injection site after getting their first dose in trials, with similar results for the second dose. Redness and swelling occurred at the injection site in about 10% of children. As for other side effects, only fatigue and headache occurred in more than 25% of children.

“There were no adverse events that were attributable to the vaccine,” Krall said, about Pfizer’s trial.

Dr. Brian Harrington, Routt County’s chief medical officer, stressed that getting children vaccinated shouldn’t just be about the risks to them but to the community itself, as hospital capacity statewide is increasingly strained.

“We currently are having trouble transferring patients to beds (on the Front Range). If you have a car accident in this community, and you need to be transferred to Denver, we might not be able to do that,” Harrington said. “Adults are getting the disease from the community and from children.”

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