CDC Approves COVID-19 Vaccines For Children Under 5

U.S. health advisers on Saturday recommended COVID-19 vaccines for infants, toddlers and preschoolers — the last group without the shots.The advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention unanimously decided that coronavirus vaccines should be opened to children as young as 6 months. On Saturday afternoon, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky signed off on the panel’s recommendation.

“Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against COVID-19,” Walensky said in a statement. “We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can. I encourage parents and caregivers with questions to talk to their doctor, nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the benefits of vaccinations and the importance of protecting their children by getting them vaccinated.”

HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra released a statement calling the CDC’s move a “major milestone.”

“Thanks to the FDA and CDC’s rigorous, comprehensive, and independent review of the data, and their strict commitment to following the science, we are reaching another major milestone in our efforts to protect more children, their families, and our communities as we work to end the pandemic,” Becerra said. “We are following the data and science as we make sure all Americans are eligible and have access to COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to prevent severe disease and save lives. Based on CDC and FDA actions, we now know that vaccination for our children 6 months through 5 years old is safe and effective and we are ready to get millions of children vaccinated.”

The White House also weighed in on the decision in a statement calling the CDC’s decision a “monumental step forward in our nation’s fight against the virus.””For parents all over the country, this is a day of relief and celebration,” President Biden said in the statemente. “As the first country to protect our youngest children with COVID-19 vaccines, my Administration has been planning and preparing for this moment for months, effectively securing doses and offering safe and highly effective mRNA vaccines for all children as young as six months old.

“While the Food and Drug Administration OKs vaccines, it’s the CDC that decides who should get them. The government has been gearing up for the start of the shots early next week, with millions of doses ordered for distribution to doctors, hospitals and community health clinics around the country. Roughly 18 million kids will be eligible, but it remains to be seen how many will ultimately get the vaccines. Less than a third of children ages 5 to 11 have done so since vaccination opened up to them last November.

Two brands — Pfizer and Moderna — got the green light Friday from the FDA. The vaccines use the same technology but are being offered at different dose sizes and number of shots for the youngest kids.

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Pfizer’s vaccine is for 6 months through 4 years. The dose is one-tenth of the adult dose, and three shots are needed. The first two are given three weeks apart, and the last at least two months later. Moderna’s is two shots, each a quarter of its adult dose, given about four weeks apart for kids 6 months through 5. The FDA also approved a third dose, at least a month after the second shot, for kids with immune conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious illness.

Two doses of Moderna appeared to be only about 40% effective at preventing milder infections at a time when the omicron variant was causing most COVID-19 illnesses. Pfizer presented study information suggesting the company saw 80% with its three shots. But the Pfizer data was so limited — and based on such a small number of cases — that experts and federal officials say they don’t feel there is a reliable estimate yet.

Hospitalizations surged during the omicron wave. Since the start of the pandemic, about 480 children under age 5 are counted among the nation’s more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths, federal data show. “It is worth vaccinating, even though the number of deaths are relatively rare, because these deaths are preventable through vaccination,” said Dr. Matthew Daley, a Kaiser Permanente Colorado researcher who sits on the advisory committee.

U.S. officials expect most shots to take place at pediatricians’ offices. Many parents may be more comfortable getting the vaccine for their kids at their regular doctor, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said. He predicted the pace of vaccination to be far slower than it was for older populations.

Pediatricians, other primary care physicians and children’s hospitals are planning to provide the vaccines. Limited drugstores will offer them for at least some of the under-5 group. U.S. officials expect most shots to take place at pediatricians’ offices. Many parents may be more comfortable getting the vaccine for their kids at their regular doctor, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said. He predicted the pace of vaccination to be far slower than it was for older populations.

“We’re going see vaccinations ramp up over weeks and even potentially over a couple of months,” Jha said. It’s common for little kids to get more than one vaccine during a doctor’s visit. In studies of the Moderna and Pfizer shots in infants and toddlers, other vaccinations were not given at the same time so there is no data on potential side effects when that happens. But problems have not been identified in older children or adults when COVID-19 shots and other vaccinations were given together, and the CDC is advising that it’s safe for younger children as well.

About three-quarters of children of all ages are estimated to have been infected at some point. For older ages, the CDC has recommended vaccination anyway to lower the chances of reinfection.Experts have noted re-infections among previously infected people and say the highest levels of protection occur in those who were both vaccinated and previously infected. The CDC has said people may consider waiting about three months after an infection to be vaccinated.

Source: CDC approves COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 | Fox Business

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Melatonin Overdoses In Kids Increase 530% Over Past Decade

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Over the past decade, the number of children overdosing on melatonin, a sleep aid, has increased by 530%, according to a new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The largest increase, a 38% jump, came in the first year of the coronavirus pandemic, which the study’s authors say was likely because more children were spending more time at home.In 2021 alone, more than 50,000 calls were placed to poison control centers in the United States about melatonin ingestion by kids, the study found.

“Most were unintentional exposure, meaning the parent did not give the child melatonin,” said ABC News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jennifer Ashton, also a board-certified OBGYN. “So the implication is the child got into it themselves.” Here are four things for parents to know to help keep kids safe.

1. Melatonin is a widely-accessible supplement.

Melatonin is a hormone that plays a role in sleep, according to the National Institutes of Health. In the U.S., melatonin supplements are considered dietary supplements, which means they are accessible to the public without the regulations of a prescription drug.

Melatonin supplements come in the form of tablets, capsules, liquid and even gummies, which may make them more attractive to kids. According to the study’s authors, “Increased sales, availability, and widespread use have likely resulted in increased access and exposure risk among children in the home.”

2. Melatonin has not been widely studied in kids.

There have not yet been enough studies on melatonin and kids to know the full impact of the supplement, according to the NIH. Even in adults, according to the NIH, the long-term impacts of melatonin are not well-known, even if the supplement does appear to be mostly safe with short-term use. With kids, because melatonin is a hormone, there is a possibility that taking it by supplement could impact hormonal development like puberty and menstruation, according to the NIH.

3. Melatonin ingestion by a child is a medical emergency

According to Ashton, when a child ingests melatonin without adult supervision, it is a medical emergency that requires immediate action. “You either want to bring them to an emergency room or contact a poison control center,” she said. Symptoms of melatonin ingestion in kids includes abdominal pain, nausea or vomiting, excessive tiredness and labored breathing.

4. Parents should store melatonin out of kids’ reach.

Ashton said parents should keep all medications and supplements, including melatonin, out of the reach of kids, even young teenagers. Bottle tops should also be kept securely closed, according to Ashton, who encouraged parents to talk to their kids about medication safety.

“You always want to use any medication exposure as an opportunity to really teach that child about medication, that it should only be given by an adult, is not candy and can have consequences both good and bad,” she said. The CDC also has additional tips HERE for keeping medication safely away from kids.

By Katie Kindelan

Source: Melatonin overdoses in kids increase 530% over past decade: What parents need to know to keep kids safe

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It’s not easy to get good sleep, especially during a worrisome pandemic with no end in sight, so it’s not surprising that bottles of sleep-inducing melatonin pills have become bedside staples. But this increased availability of melatonin at home, particularly in easy-to-consume forms like gummies, has had serious, and in some cases deadly, consequences for the children who either accidentally get their hands on it or are given it by a caregiver.

A new study published by the CDC found that melatonin overdoses in children increased 530% from 2012 to 2021, with the largest spike — a 38% increase — occurring from 2019 to 2020, when the COVID pandemic started. The researchers looked at melatonin overdoses in children and teens. More than 260,000 cases were reported to US poison control centers over the last decade, including more than 4,000 hospitalizations and nearly 300 that resulted in intensive care.

Five children required mechanical ventilation and two children — a 3-month-old and a 1-year-old — died at home following melatonin poisoning. The researchers said child-resistant packaging for melatonin “should be considered” and that healthcare providers need to better warn parents about the supplement’s “potential toxic consequences.”

The study’s lead researcher Dr. Karima Lelak, who is a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit, said melatonin may not be as harmless as people make it out to be, and that safe storage is absolutely critical. “Parents should really see melatonin just as any other medication that has the potential to do harm to kids, and it can be even more dangerous because it can look like candy,” Lelak told BuzzFeed News. “If a parent takes their melatonin after reading this paper and puts it in their medicine cabinet, I am humbled because I think that’s really a big take-home point: safe storage.”

Melatonin supplements work by mimicking melatonin, a hormone naturally found in our bodies that is produced by the brain in response to darkness. Supplements are mostly used to treat sleep disorders, but they’re an accessible over-the-counter product anyone can buy and use to help improve sleep (and they’re often promoted to parents as a sleep aid for children). Melatonin is regulated by the FDA as a dietary supplement, requires no prescription to take, and is widely available in pill, liquid, and gummy form.

The majority of melatonin overdoses were accidental, occurred at home, and were treated in a setting outside of healthcare, the researchers found; most involved boys younger than 5. Melatonin consumption comprised about 5% of all childhood overdoses reported to poison control centers in 2021, compared with 0.6% in 2012, the study found. The supplement was the most frequently consumed substance among kids reported to poison control centers in 2020, likely because children were spending more time at home due to pandemic-related school closures and stay-at-home orders.

The 10-year study also showed that melatonin ingestions are leading to more serious outcomes over time. Whereas most hospitalized patients involved teenagers who may have intentionally taken too much of the hormone, the biggest jump in hospital admissions occurred among kids younger than 5 who accidentally overdosed on melatonin. It’s still unclear why the severity of melatonin ingestions among kids is getting worse, but the researchers speculate that quality control issues with the supplements themselves may play a role.

Melatonin sales in the US surged 150% between 2016 and 2020 in response to public demand. Studies conducted in Canada have shown that melatonin sold in stores often fails to match some of its label’s claims in terms of dosage, with the most variation found in the chewable products that kids are more likely to consume. This research has led to some important changes in Canada’s health policies involving melatonin, including the banning of certain over-the-counter products. However, such “drug quality studies and legislation initiatives in the United States are lacking,” the researchers wrote.

What’s more, these studies have found that some melatonin products are often contaminated with “potentially clinically significant” doses of serotonin, a byproduct of melatonin, that can lead to serotonin toxicity in kids, causing symptoms such as confusion, high blood pressure, overactive reflexes, and a rapid heartbeat. Most of the children included in the study who accidentally consumed too much melatonin didn’t have any symptoms, but those who did had gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, or central nervous system issues, including nausea, drowsiness, abdominal pain, and vomiting, Lelak said.

It’s difficult to know how much melatonin is too much because there isn’t an established dosage deemed safe for consumption, according to Lelak. It could be one pill or an entire bottle, but it will depend on how old someone is, the symptoms they’re showing after ingestion (if any), and their body size. About 15% to 25% of children and adolescents have trouble falling and staying asleep, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. However, the group warns, parents should speak with their pediatrician before giving their kids melatonin.

Dr. Shalini Paruthi, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, previously told BuzzFeed News that parents should wait until their kids are at least 3 years old before giving them melatonin because children younger than that have “unformed neurological and endocrine systems.” It’s also a good idea to first address poor sleep behaviors to ensure kids are getting quality sleep…

 

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3 Things To Ask Your Doctor About Breast Cancer Treatment

As far as illnesses go, breast cancer is a relatively common one: 13 percent of women in the United States will develop breast cancer over their lifetime, according to the National Cancer Institute. That works out to one in eight women, so if you know more than eight women, odds are you probably know someone who has had or will be diagnosed with breast cancer in the future.

And if you’re trying to understand your risk of developing breast cancer or if you or a loved one are facing a diagnosis, that means one thing: You probably have questions for a doctor.

To help you assemble your list, we asked Virginia Kaklamani, MD, leader of the Breast Cancer Program at UT Health San Antonio MD Anderson Cancer Center, for her advice on what to ask. According to Dr. Kaklamani, there are a few important things to keep in mind as you’re crafting your questions, such as your family history, lifestyle risk factors, and available treatment options.

On the treatment front, Dr. Kaklamani says one of the misconceptions she hears most often is that breast cancer treatment always involves chemotherapy and is very toxic. In response, she reminds people how far treatment options—and the tools we have to determine which treatment may work best for each individual person—have come in the past 20 years.

Case in point: Just last year, a landmark study published in The New England Journal of Medicine showed that, thanks to a genomic test called the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score® test, even more patients with a common type of early-stage breast cancer may be spared chemotherapy than previously thought, including those who are traditionally considered higher-risk due to their cancer spreading to at least one lymph node.

That means more treatment plans tailored to each individual patient, and less of a chance of overprescribing chemo to those who may not benefit from it.

Learning something already? With education in mind, we asked Dr. Kaklamani to share her insights on questions you should ask your doctor about breast cancer—whether you’re trying to stay on top of your health, or you’re exploring your breast cancer treatment options.

What role does race play in breast cancer?

There are many factors that contribute to breast cancer risk, including age, family history, alcohol consumption, obesity, and race. White women are most likely to develop breast cancer, Dr. Kaklamani says, though Black women are more likely to die from it (40 percent more likely, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

Studies have shown that Black women have a higher risk of being diagnosed with later stages of disease,” Dr. Kaklamani says. “So instead of coming in with stage one or stage two, they might come in with stage two or three or even stage four breast cancer. It’s been very hard to understand why.

Most of the data suggests that it’s related both to the type of breast cancer that they get (because they get more triple negative breast cancer—that’s more aggressive, so we tend to find it later), but also to socioeconomic factors.”

By asking your doctor to discuss the connections between race and breast cancer with you, you’ll be able to more openly advocate for yourself and properly assess your personal risk factors.

What types of tests are available to provide insight about a breast cancer treatment plan?

If you have breast cancer, you should definitely ask your doctor for a thorough rundown on your treatment options, Dr. Kaklamani says, starting with the types of tests available to help craft your individual treatment plan.

Genomic tests—like the Oncotype DX® test—look at the specific genes in a tumor to see whether they are over- or under-active. For people diagnosed with early-stage invasive breast cancer (HR-positive and HER2-negative with or without involvement of the lymph nodes), the Oncotype DX Breast Recurrence Score® result tells patients and their doctors not only how aggressive their cancer is and the risk of it returning, but more importantly, whether chemotherapy might be a beneficial treatment option or if it can be safely omitted, Dr. Kaklamani says.

“The good thing about the [result that you get from the Oncotype® test] is that it’s specific to the woman that we are testing,” she says. “All of these clinical trials that we’ve done have included thousands and thousands of women, [but] none of those women are present in my office when I talk to that specific person about their breast cancer. [Each test result] represents that woman’s breast cancer.”

Personalized is obviously better when it comes to something as delicate as cancer treatment (you wouldn’t take someone else’s prescription medicine, would you?), so asking your doctor about genomic testing can help ensure you’re getting a treatment plan that’s properly tailored to your needs.

Should I be doing a self breast exam?

In 2015, the American Cancer Society stopped recommending that people perform their own breast exams, but that doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for keeping tabs on your breast health, Dr. Kaklamani says.

“The guidelines are very clear that there has to be what they call ‘breast self awareness,'” she says. “This is extremely important to be aware of what your breasts look like, and if you do notice something that has changed, that you see your physician immediately.”

Dr. Kaklmani notes that one study showed that nurses who were taught how to properly perform self breast exams were able to accurately detect their breast cancer—demonstrating that if people are properly trained, self breast exams can be effective. That training should fall on gynecologists and primary care physicians, she says, so ask yours for instructions during your next visit.

By: Dr. Kaklamani Paid consultant for Exact Sciences Corporation.

Source: 3 Things To Ask Your Doctor About Breast Cancer Treatment | Well+Good

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Heart Problems Surge In COVID Patients Up To 12 Months After Infection

A massive analysis of health records has revealed recovered COVID-19 patients are at a significantly higher risk of cardiovascular complications in the year following an acute infection. The new findings, published in Nature Medicine, showed COVID-19 survivors were 55 percent more likely to experience a serious cardiovascular event after recovering.

“We wanted to build upon our past research on COVID’s long-term effects by taking a closer look at what’s happening in people’s hearts,” explained Ziyad Al-Aly, senior author on the new study from Washington University. “What we’re seeing isn’t good. COVID-19 can lead to serious cardiovascular complications and death. The heart does not regenerate or easily mend after heart damage. These are diseases that will affect people for a lifetime.”

The researchers looked at medical records from the US Department of Veteran Affairs, analyzing around 150,000 positive COVID-19 cases. Cardiovascular outcomes in the 12 months after acute disease were compared to two large control groups of more than five million patients.

In a period starting 30 days after initial infection, and up to a year later, COVID patients were 72 percent more likely to experience coronary artery disease compared to those without SARS-CoV-2 infection. They were also 52 percent more likely to have a stroke and 63 percent more likely to suffer a heart attack.

Overall, the study found COVID-19 patients experienced a 55 percent higher rate of major adverse cardiovascular events in the year following their acute disease. These adverse events included cerebrovascular disorders such as stroke, ischemic and non-ischemic heart disease, pericarditis, myocarditis, and heart failure.

Al-Aly pointed out that risks of cardiovascular events were higher in those with pre-existing heart conditions and those suffering from more severe COVID-19. However, across all cohorts the study still found COVID-19 increased one’s risk of heart problems.

“… most remarkably, people who have never had any heart problems and were considered low risk are also developing heart problems after COVID-19,” said Al-Aly. “Our data showed an increased risk of heart damage for young people and old people; males and females; Blacks, whites and all races; people with obesity and people without; people with diabetes and those without; people with prior heart disease and no prior heart disease; people with mild COVID infections and those with more severe COVID who needed to be hospitalized for it.”

Exactly why SARS-CoV-2 infection is increasing a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease is still unclear. In the new study the researchers hypothesize a number of potential mechanisms, such as lingering damage in cells from the acute viral infection to a persistent hyperactive immune response following the disease.

“These mechanistic pathways might explain the range of post-acute COVID-19 cardiovascular sequelae investigated in this report,” the researchers wrote in the study. “A deeper understanding of the biologic mechanisms will be needed to inform development of prevention and treatment strategies of the cardiovascular manifestations among people with COVID-19.”

These results add to a growing body of data highlighting the long-term effects of COVID-19. Most recently, an Australian study tracked 20,000 COVID-19 cases for up to one year following acute infection. That study found COVID-19 significantly increased a person’s risk of neurological, cardiac and vascular disease events compared to those not infected with SARS-CoV-2.

“Risk of myocarditis and pericarditis is particularly high, estimated between 18- and 21-fold higher following SARS-CoV-2 infection,” the new Australian study noted. “Elevated risk have also been shown for acute myocardial infarction (AMI) between 3- and 6-fold, ischaemic stroke at 3- to 10-fold, and venous thromboembolism at up to 8-fold. Notably, these risk estimates are higher than those imposed by other viral respiratory infections and vaccination.”

It is important to note both of these studies, and most long-term COVID-19 follow-up research, are tracking cases from 2020. These are cohorts that are primarily unvaccinated and experiencing infection from early strains of the virus.

Al-Aly does indicate it is likely vaccination will reduce the long-term cardiovascular risks associated with COVID-19. But, it will take more time to understand exactly how much protection vaccines confer in terms of these long COVID outcomes.

In the short-term, Al-Aly says it is vital governments prepare for increased pressure on health systems over the coming years due to these longer-term effects of COVID-19. He especially notes these findings underscore the importance of vaccine distribution in low-income countries as a way to try to mitigate the future impact of these post-COVID events.

“Governments and health systems around the world should be prepared to deal with the likely significant contribution of the COVID-19 pandemic to a rise in the burden of cardiovascular diseases,” said Al-Aly. “Because of the chronic nature of these conditions, they will likely have long-lasting consequences for patients and health systems, and also have broad implications on economic productivity and life expectancy.”

Source: Heart problems surge in COVID patients up to 12 months after infection

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To Get Kids Vaccinated Against COVID-19, Health Officials Will Need to Reach Hesitant Parents

For as long as COVID-19 vaccines have existed, Melissa Chernofsky has been practically counting down the days until she can get one for her 5-year-old son. “If it was like getting Lollapalooza tickets, where you have to camp out all night, that’s what I would do,” says the 46-year-old from Brooklyn.

Chernofsky got a shot for herself as soon as she was eligible, and says she has never hesitated about doing the same for her child once she has the option. “As a parent, our number one job is to keep our kids safe,” she says. “I don’t really understand the idea that if there is a tool that can keep your kid from getting a disease, that you wouldn’t give it to them.”

One such tool—Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds—was authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Oct. 29, bringing it a step closer to widespread availability. If the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends it for some or all children in that age group, kids could start getting vaccinated in the coming days.

But for every parent who feels as passionately pro-vaccine as Chernofsky does, there is at least one other with serious concerns about vaccinating their child. According to an October Kaiser Family Foundation poll, 27% of parents with kids ages 5 to 11 said they would vaccinate their child right away. But even more—35%—said they either definitely wouldn’t vaccinate or wouldn’t unless required. The rest were somewhere in the middle and said they would “wait and see.”

That split illustrates the significant challenge ahead of federal officials and health care workers, who must be ready to fulfill many families’ urgent desire for shots while also reaching those who are hesitant. Dr. Sara Bode, who is the medical director of school-based and mobile-care clinics for Ohio’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital, says pediatric hospitals and public-health departments around the country are gearing up to hold larger-scale clinics that can satisfy much of the pent-up demand for pediatric shots.

Vaccine supply is no longer an issue, so she thinks parents who want to vaccinate their kids should be able to do so easily. But “once this initial surge is over and everyone who wanted it gets it,” Bode says, “that’s where the real work starts to happen.”

Once it begins, a successful vaccine rollout must serve parents with questions or concerns about the vaccine in addition to those who are highly motivated—not just for the sake of those families, but for U.S. public health. Immunizing the roughly 28 million U.S. kids between the ages of 5 and 11 is a key piece of federal officials’ plan for controlling the virus, following their push to vaccinate older children after a shot was authorized for 12- to 15-year-olds in May.

“Not getting vaccinated means that our kids could potentially pass on the virus to others if they get infected,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said during a May call with parents, pediatricians, youth organizations and community leaders. “Breaking the chain of transmission is going to require us vaccinating our children.”

And, since 5- to 11-year-olds are too young to consent to vaccination themselves, that’s going to require convincing parents who, in many cases, are even more skeptical about vaccinating their children than they were about getting inoculated themselves. All told, about 78% of U.S. residents 12 and older have gotten at least one dose, but looking specifically at 12- to 15-year-olds, that number falls to about 57%.

“Messaging has to be to the parents, not to the kids,” Bode says. “It has to be sensitive and it has to be, usually, one-on-one,” so it can address each parent’s specific concerns. Individuals also tend to respond better when they hear about the vaccine from people who live and work in their community, rather than from government agencies or mass-communications campaigns, Bode adds.

The Biden Administration is banking on that. Its plan to vaccinate kids ages 5 to 11 hinges largely on distributing shots in pediatricians’ offices and schools, capitalizing on the trust parents often inherently hold for those institutions. “You are so often the people that folks want to hear from,” Murthy said on the May call with pediatricians and community leaders. “Your story, your outreach, can make all the difference in helping people get the information they need … and ultimately take that step of protecting their children.”

Dr. Tyree Winters, a New Jersey-based pediatrician, says he and his colleagues have been fielding questions from parents of older children for months, and he expects that to continue once younger kids can get the shot. Parents—even those who are vaccinated—often come in with concerns about their children experiencing vaccine-related side effects, or worried about misinformation they’ve read online.

(The incorrect idea that the shots can cause infertility is a big source of hesitation, he says.) Some are just plain uncomfortable with giving their kids a fairly new vaccine, even if they were willing to get it themselves. Getting through to these parents requires a balance of empathy and careful explanation of the science behind the vaccines, Winters says. “I let them know, ‘You’re not crazy, you’re not being over-dramatic, you’re not being unreasonable,’” he says. “That’s the beauty of being a pediatrician …we can relate to our patients and our families.”

Dr. Kelly Moore, CEO of the pro-vaccine Immunization Action Coalition, agrees that pediatricians can get through to many parents. But “not all children have a regular health care provider that they see, and public education through school systems will be important to reach families more widely,” Moore adds. Offering the shots in schools will also improve access to them, particularly for families that do not have a strong relationship with the traditional health system or parents who can’t take time off work to bring their child to a vaccine clinic.

The desire to keep kids in school can also convince some parents to vaccinate, says Dr. Sherri Young, who led adult and adolescent vaccination efforts in West Virginia’s Kanawha County. By mid-September, just a few weeks into the 2021-2022 school year, more than 1,800 U.S. schools had already experienced COVID-related closures, according to CDC data. That’s something both parents and kids want to avoid—and pitching vaccines as the way to do that can be effective, Young says.

“Sports are very important to kids. Going to school is very important to kids. Going to school is very important for parents,” Young says. “We’re going to keep our schools open longer if we all get in this together.”

Still, there are some parents who don’t believe their children need to be vaccinated, given the low rates of serious illness and death among people 18 and under. Others, concerned by reports of rare heart-related side effects among young people, think the risks of vaccination outweigh the benefits.

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In authorizing Pfizer’s shot, the FDA said the opposite is true. The vaccine appears more than 90% effective at preventing symptomatic infections among 5- to 11-year-olds, and no serious side effects have been reported among a group of more than 3,000 kids who participated in trials. The CDC’s advisory group will soon discuss in more detail whether certain groups of kids should or should not get the shot.

Moore says the recent Delta-related spike in cases should show parents that there is serious benefit to vaccination. It remains true that children develop severe disease much less often than adults and die from coronavirus even less frequently—but images of overflowing pediatric ICUs and kids on ventilators from this past summer prove that the worst does sometimes happen, she says. Vaccines drastically reduce that risk.

Getting parents to understand that could not only save their children’s lives, but also help the U.S. finally put the worst of the pandemic in the past.

By Jamie Ducharme

Source: How Health Officials Can Reach Vaccine-Hesitant Parents | Time

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