Keep Your Kids Healthy and in School

Young girl inside her school building being safe by wearing a good quality mask

 

With the highly transmissible Omicron variant disrupting classrooms across the nation, the COVID-19 vaccine is a safe and effective way to protect children against severe disease and hospitalization. However, pediatric vaccination rates are alarmingly low, increasing the risk of transmission in schools, families and the entire community. 

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation update, over 65% percent of California children ages 5-11 have yet to receive a single COVID-19 vaccine dose. The coverage rate is especially low among those in underserved and vulnerable communities – with 21% of children in the state’s poorest neighborhoods vaccinated, compared to 64% in the wealthiest neighborhoods. 

According to health experts, many parents and caregivers may have difficulty accessing a COVID-19 vaccine at a local clinic, doctors office or pharmacy. Others may believe the virus is not dangerous to children, or the vaccine presents serious health risks to children.  

“It is especially important for families to receive information about the science behind the vaccine, as well as have convenient access to the vaccine, so they can make the best decisions for their children,” said Dr. Anastasia Williams, a pediatrician at San Fernando Community Health Center (SFCHC). “Rigorous clinical trials have proven the vaccine to be safe and effective for children, with only mild side effects similar to those experienced by other age groups. Keeping children of all ages healthy and in school is vital to their physical, mental and emotional well-being.”  

COVID-19 vaccines are free and there are several ways to find a provider close to home. 

  • California residents can visit myturn.ca.gov or call 1.833.422.4255 to book an appointment or find a walk-in site. 
  • The Vaccinate LA Collaborative partners with local health centers, such as SFCHC, to host free COVID-19 vaccine clinics. To learn about event dates and schedule an appointment, visit VaxLAToday.org
  • SFCHC offers pediatric vaccines by appointment on the second and third Wednesdays of the month, from 1-5 p.m.
  • For more information, call 818.963.5690.

Serving patients throughout the San Fernando Valley, SFCHC has been a trusted, patient-centered healthcare home for the community since 1924. Its designation as a Federally Qualified Health Center allows it to provide state-of-the art health care services, prevention and education regardless of income or ability to pay. For more information, visit http://www.sfchealthcenter.org/

 
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Ask Your Family Pediatrician

Dr. Anastasia Williams, a pediatrician at SFCHC, answers some of the most common questions asked by parents about the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

 

Why does my child need a COVID-19 vaccine?

As we have seen, the strains of COVID-19 have been changing. Initially, it did not affect children as much as adults, but current strains are much more contagious and do affect children. It is important that we act now to protect our children from COVID, while possibly blocking some of the effects of future more contagious and more deadly strains of COVID-19.

How quickly is a child protected from COVID-19 and how long does it last?

In clinical trials, patients have been shown to have some protection from COVID within 14 days of the first shot. However, you will not see a full antibody response until two weeks or so after the last or second shot. Remember, vaccination is only one part of protecting ourselves from COVID infection. Wearing a mask indoors, everyone quarantining or isolating when sick, and social distancing can significantly enhance your protection.

Can children with an underlying health condition get vaccinated?

Yes. In fact, most children with underlying conditions (such as asthma, cancer, heart disease or chronic lung disease), need the COVID vaccine most urgently. Depending on the condition and the status of their immune system, some of these children will need extra doses of the vaccine in order to get the same protection from COVID-19. 

Does the COVID-19 vaccine have long-term or harmful side effects for children?

Research so far has not shown any long-term or harmful side effects for children. Again, there are no long-term or harmful effects from the COVID-19 vaccine for children, that we are aware of. The vaccine for children under the age of 12 is one-third the strength of the one for adults, and causes minimal symptoms (arm pain/ fever). There are much fewer side effects than those seen in adults.

Was making of the vaccine rushed? What safety testing was done to prove the vaccine is safe for children?

MRNA technology has been in use for over two decades. The first COVID vaccines may have been administered a few years ago, but it is not a new technology. So far, millions of people have now been vaccinated, in addition to the thousands of children that participated in clinical trials. Results continue to show that the vaccine is effective in preventing deaths from COVID-19, and is very safe.

Do children who have been vaccinated for COVID-19 need to wear a mask or quarantine if they get exposed to the virus?

If you are fully vaccinated and you are exposed to COVID-19, you do not need to quarantine unless you have symptoms. You should wear a mask for 10 days when you are around others (indoors and outdoors), and you should get tested on day five or more after the last exposure. If you develop symptoms, you must isolate immediately and get tested; stay home until you know your results are negative, or for 10 days. You definitely should avoid being around anyone who is considered “high risk.”

Author
Stacy Geere

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