Pediatric vaccines Photo provided by CDC

Pediatric vaccines are available at pediatric clinics across the Choctaw Nation.

Pediatric vaccines are a new weapon in the fight against COVID-19

By Dr. Townsend Cooper, CNHSA
January 1, 2022

COVID has significantly impacted all of our lives since it began to spread widely in the United States in early 2020. Thankfully, over the last two years, an increasing number of tools have become available to fight the disease. Approximately one year ago, the first vaccine became available for adults. Since that time, more vaccines and therapeutics have emerged, and the use of the vaccines expanded first to adolescents and now to school-age children.

In October, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of the COVID vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 years old. This authorization applied only to the Pfizer COVID vaccine for a two-dose series at reduced dosing. In a study of more than 3,000 children, this vaccine was approximately 90% effective in preventing COVID infection, and no serious side effects were noted in the children in the study. Following the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommendation and FDA approval, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) also recommended COVID vaccines for all children ages 5-11 who do not have a contraindication to the vaccine. Children will receive a dose that is approximately 1/3 the size of an adult dose and then receive a second dose three weeks later.

COVID-19 generally causes a milder illness in younger children than in adults, but there is still a small risk of more severe infection. Additionally, there is also the risk of a serious post-COVID inflammatory process called MIS-C (multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children), which can cause serious inflammation of the heart and other organs. There have already been several potential cases of MIS-C in our community and more documented cases across Oklahoma. Even though these instances of primary or post-infection severe disease are rare, the vaccine can further decrease their prevalence. Perhaps most importantly, however, receipt of the COVID vaccine can decrease the risk of the child acquiring and transmitting the virus to vulnerable adult caregivers, such as grandparents and other older relatives. These individuals are generally at much higher risk for severe disease. By vaccinating the children in a household, the overall risk of COVID and subsequent severe disease will likely decrease for the adults in their lives as well.

Some have raised concerns that the size of the study used to examine the vaccine in children may not have been large enough to detect all side effects, such as myocarditis, which can be a rare side effect of the vaccine in older adolescents. However, with the considerable positive experience of vaccine administration to the adult and adolescent populations, the decreased dose of the vaccine for children, and the lower incidence of myocarditis in general in this population, experts feel that the likelihood of significant side effects is very small.

Approximately 280 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been given worldwide. As new waves of illness continue to enter the community, the authorization of the use of a formulation of the vaccine for children 5-11 is a critical new tool available to blunt the spread of the disease. You can take advantage of this new weapon in the fight against COVID by having your children and grandchildren ages five and older vaccinated at local Choctaw facilities. Vaccines are available at pediatric clinics across the Choctaw Nation. Caregivers can contact the pediatric clinic that their child attends for details on how they can get started on the two-dose series.

Help protect your family and the community from COVID by taking advantage of this valuable new opportunity!