Bethel children ages 5-11 started receiving COVID-19 vaccines

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Bethel children aged 5 to 11 began receiving COVID-19 vaccines on November 4. Vaccinations will begin in the villages of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in the following days. Here’s what parents and guardians of children can expect when they take their child to be immunized, and why caregivers encourage everyone in this age group to get immunized.

Health officials hope that widespread immunization of children aged 5 to 11 will help reduce the spread of COVID-19 in the region and protect children and adults.

YKHC has prepared for this moment. Dr. Ellen Hodges is Chief of Staff at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. She said she and another doctor were flipping a coin to see who would vaccinate the first child in Bethel. Prior to the start of vaccinations, YKHC held a virtual “town hall” to provide information and answer questions from the public about immunizing this younger age group.

“Thank you all for bringing their children. I am so excited that the vaccines are starting today,” Hodges said.

Hodges guided the virtual audience through the vaccination process. She recommends that parents and guardians devote about half an hour to it. In Bethel, vaccinations are offered on the second floor of the hospital in the wellness center.

“You can expect to fill out some paperwork, which is a consent form to give us permission to immunize your child,” Hodges explained.

Then there are the papers explaining the vaccine.

“Then your child will be vaccinated. Because we want to keep your child under observation for about 15 minutes after the vaccination, you will be asked to wait in the wellness center. There are chairs set up to wait about 15 minutes. And if all is well, after 15 minutes you will be free to go, ”Hodges said.

The observation period is to watch for any signs of anaphylaxis. This reaction is rare and often easily treated with allergy medication. Hodges said the vaccination process at village clinics will be similar. Families should plan to return their children in 21 days, or about three weeks, to receive their second dose of the vaccine.

In Bethel, parents and guardians can call YKHC to make an appointment for their child’s immunization at 907-543-6949. To register your child in a village, call the clinic in your village. YKHC will start offering vaccinations in villages from November 7 and release this schedule at a later date. He also plans to offer vaccinations in schools.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) approved Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for ages 5-11 November 2. Doses for this age group are one-third the volume of those for the elderly. This is not because children tend to be smaller, but rather because their immune systems are more robust and require fewer vaccines to protect them. Smaller doses will be given with smaller needles. Common side effects of vaccines include arm pain, fever, and fatigue. They usually go away within a few days and can be treated with Tylenol.

One of the motivations for vaccinating children is to help them stay in school and reduce stress on families.

“We learned that last year it’s really hard for kids not to go to school. It’s hard for them socially. It’s hard for them academically. It’s hard on them emotionally. And the rates of depression and anxiety in this age group are astounding, ”Hodges said.

Another motivation for vaccination is to protect children from COVID-19 and not to pass the virus on to others.

“We know that to our knowledge there is almost no effect from the COVID vaccine,” said Dr. Matthew Hirschfeld, a pediatrician at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

The effects of COVID-19 disease, on the other hand, can be long term. For example, multisystem inflammatory syndrome is rare but often dangerous and often develops after a child appears to be recovering from the virus. Three children from the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta developed this syndrome. Dr Elizabeth Bates, director of infection control at YKHC, said the children had no previous health issues. Children are also at risk for long COVID, which has no known treatment.

“I was reading a study that said 2% to 5% of children can develop a long COVID, and it’s pretty scary. Maybe that means they can’t play that long, or they can’t go out and fish or hunt the same way they did before they got COVID, ”Bates said.

YKHC encourages all children aged 5 to 11 to get vaccinated against COVID-19. About 40% of cases in the region involve children under the age of 18. This is higher than the national average due to the region’s younger population. Bates said child hospitalizations have increased since the delta variant outbreak.

“We have seen an increase in hospitalizations among children as young as 10 months,” Bates said.

The CDC recommends that you do not receive the vaccine only if you are allergic to any of its ingredients. These allergies are rare. The Pfizer vaccine has 10 ingredients, and Bates says many foods contain more of it.

“There are more ingredients in Blue Bunny ice cream, and I’m going to eat this stuff all day without any hesitation. So I understand that the vaccine is different from ice cream, but thinking about the way we are. exposed to a lot of things all the time, and these ingredients in this vaccine are very safe. It has now been offered to millions of people around the world, “Bates said.

This vaccine becomes available to children as annual respiratory illnesses in the region begin to increase. Bates says children in the area are at high risk for chronic lung disease. During most winters, children in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta flood Anchorage pediatric intensive care beds with severe cases of RSV and bronchiolitis.

COVID-19 cases have started to decline in the state, but still remain four times higher than the national average. Health officials stress that Alaska’s health care system cannot handle a wave of COVID-19 and respiratory illness this winter. To prevent this, YKHC is promoting COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. They can be administered on the same day and are available at the same locations within the YKHC.


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