It is exciting news that children ages 12 and older are now eligible to receive the Pfizer COVID vaccine!
We know that the Pfizer vaccine is effective and safe for ages 16 and older. The vaccine generates even more antibodies for the younger patients, which translates to stronger immune protection. The vaccine was given to over 1000 patients, ages 12-15, and they were compared to 1000 patients who were not vaccinated. In the weeks following full vaccination, 18 of those not vaccinated came down with COVID. Zero of the vaccinated individuals developed COVID. So the early results show 100% effectiveness in protection.
The side effects are no more frequent and no more severe for this age group. The list is now familiar: sore arm, tiredness, headache, chills, muscle pain, fever and joint pain; lasting 1-3 days and more common after the 2nd dose. The Pfizer vaccine is one of the vaccines that must be kept extra cold to maintain full strength. So, a person experiencing those mild side effects can rest assured that the vaccine was kept cold and that the immune system is working properly!
While there have been some concerns about certain vaccines, the Pfizer vaccine has not demonstrated a serious health risk in the many millions of doses given, dating back to research trials last summer.
There is a lot of false information swirling around the internet and social media. Rumors that the COVID vaccine can affect infertility, that the vaccine contains some tracking device, that the vaccine can change your DNA. The Pfizer vaccine does not linger in your body’s cells long enough to do any of this. Within 48 hours of the vaccine, you can’t find any trace of it. The vaccine lasts long enough to prompt your immune system to do what it does every day — protect you. The vaccine simply gives your body a photocopy of the COVID virus — like a wanted criminal — so your immune system can jump into action, if you are exposed to COVID at a future date.
Children generally have milder COVID symptoms than adults, but this important step of vaccinating more humans reduces new people that COVID can infect. This stops the development of new mutations and gets us closer to those happier days of less masks and closer distance.
Now that those age 16 years and older are able to receive the COVID vaccine, pediatricians are fielding questions about when younger children will be next.
Vaccines typically spend years being studied for effectiveness and safety. That process was understandably expedited due to the lives being lost due to COVID illness. COVID’s is the first vaccine to ever be approved under the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) process. As with any medical treatment, there is always a balance between benefit and risk. Every treatment carries some risk that must be considered in comparison to its benefit.
The risks of the vaccine for an individual age 65 and older are much, much lower than the risks of COVID. That math is very different for children under age 16, where the risk of death from COVID is one tenth of one percent. Even the risk of the treatable multi-inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) is 2 per 100,000 — which means that most pediatricians will never see a case. For children, we will have the luxury of time when evaluating the effectiveness and safety of the COVID vaccine.
Until most adults have been vaccinated, we need to continue general mask-wearing and social distancing. But children can safely return to their childhood, including in-person school, without delay. Immunizing children has always been an important piece of preventing infectious diseases and building herd immunity, but we can focus our attention now on vaccinating as many adults as soon as possible.
If you are interested in volunteering at our vaccination center in Haverhill, please sign up here. We welcome all levels of experience as we need everyone from room cleaners and greeters to observers and vaccinators. You will end your shift with the satisfaction of knowing you made a positive difference in your community!
Given the large demand and limited supply of vaccines, Mass General Brigham is following Massachusetts’ phased plan and therefore in this phase is only offering vaccines to patients ages 75 years and older.
Please sign up for a Patient Gateway account if you not already done so. This will be Mass General Brigham’s primary means for managing the vaccination process.
Mass General Brigham will begin reaching out to eligible patients soon via Patient Gateway, email, phone calls, and text messages. We are in an ‘outreach only’ phase so patients will be notified when they have been selected. Please do not call Pentucket Medical with questions about your status.
Selection for “invitation” is random, but special consideration is being given to more heavily impacted communities such as Lawrence and Haverhill.
Pentucket Medical will begin vaccinating patients at Haverhill-Primrose beginning Wednesday, February 3.
Eligible patients can also find other locations and schedule a vaccine appointment through the Massachusetts web site. This resource should be considered in addition to ongoing Mass General Brigham efforts.
Submitted by Dr. John Maddox, Pediatrician, Pentucket Medical/ Haverhill
1. Can wearing a mask make it harder for my child to breathe?
Recommended cloth face coverings do not block the exchange of oxygen or carbon dioxide. The vast majority of children age 2 or older can safely wear a cloth face covering for extended periods of time; this includes children with many medical conditions. Begin now having your child wear masks at home. Start with short periods, when they are doing their favorite activities, and gradually increase the length of time, so they get used to it. All schools will offer mask breaks.
2. Can masks themselves spread germs?
Masks get damp over time, from the same respiratory droplets that spread COVID, flu and other germs, so face coverings should washed regularly. It is important to have cloth face coverings that fit a child’s face well, so that they are not tampering with the mask. You should perform hand hygiene before and after touching your face covering.
3. Can a child with special health care needs, like the autism spectrum, wear a mask?
Some children will need extra attention to the way a mask feels and fits and smells. Some kids will benefit from strategies like Social Story (see below), which help explain new situations with both descriptions and directives. Schools are prepared for some students with special needs to be unable to wear masks full-time right away. Occupational therapists and applied behavior therapists will work with students to teach them new and important skills.
4. Should a kid wear a mask during sports?
Cloth face coverings help young athletes protect their teammates and themselves. They also help protect the sports season. Whenever safe and possible, athletes should wear a cloth face covering. This includes on the sideline bench, in team chats and going to and from the field. Exceptions include when they are actively exercising.
5. Do masks really prevent the spread of COVID-19?
Cloth face coverings are one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of COVID, flu and other germs. Very early on in the pandemic, there was concern about having enough masks for health care workers, so widespread mask use was discouraged. However, it is very clear now that states, communities, and schools that have contained COVID— despite imperfect social distancing, ventilation and hand hygiene— have used cloth face coverings to prevent spread, even in asymptomatic people.
By: Garrett Bomba, MD, Chief Physician Executive, Pentucket Medical
The coronavirus pandemic is changing the way we interact with each other day by day. More social distancing means medical and behavioral health care clinicians are finding new ways to provide care to their patients. The use of telehealth is making that easier.
What does that mean to you? It means that healthcare is provided over the phone or web so that patients can stay connected to their clinician. These virtual appointments can be used for initial COVID screenings and routine exams as well as help to support those with chronic diseases, such as diabetes- all while at home.
From pediatric visits to seniors who have a question about their prescription medications, the use of telemedicine, by either phone or video provides greater access to a clinician. For many, this has proven to be an invaluable resource and it is anticipated that telemedicine visits will continue once the pandemic is over.
Though telemedicine is providing greater access for patients to clinicians, there are some clinical situations where in person appointments are necessary.
If you have questions about how your plan covers telehealth and telemedicine, reach out to your insurance provider.
To learn more about a virtual appointment click the video below:
As of March 30, ExpressCare/ Riverwalk staff will not be providing urgent care services until further notice.
To support our patients growing healthcare needs due to COVID-19/ Coronavirus, we will be providing respiratory care and treatment at this location. To receive this care, patients will have to be seen and referred by a Partners Healthcare clinician.
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