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Pediatrician weighs in on vaccine

SALYERSVILLE – With the FDA approving emergency usage of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, the SI sat down with another local pediatrician to see her take on the vaccine for some of her younger patients.

Dr. Tiffany Mills at Hope Family Pediatrics, here in Salyersville, explained that the vaccine has a lower dosage than the Pfizer vaccine for adults, but was the lowest dose found to be effective in clinical trials.

“We recommend all kids get the vaccine,” Mills said.

She said the side effects for children seem to be the same as most vaccines, including pain at the injection sight, low-grade fever and fatigue, with a slight risk of mild carditis, especially in adolescent males. Mills specified that the trials found the risk of mild carditis – or inflammation of the heart – from the vaccine was much lower than the risk of mild carditis as a result of contracting the virus, so medical professionals still recommend the vaccine.

“In clinical trials, all [that had mild carditis after receiving the vaccine] had mild symptoms and all fully recovered,” Mills said. “The highest risk is in adolescent males, but it’s also a risk for COVID. It’s very rare with a vaccine.”

While children 5 to 11 could only start getting the vaccine last week with the new emergency FDA approval, Mills said there is plenty of evidence that the vaccine can protect children, as well as make it less likely for the children to spread the virus to other people.

“We’re just starting to vaccinate kids, so they’re not recommending anything for the future, yet, but we know it protects them and it’s less likely for them to spread the virus, so it will help protect the community,” Mills said. “This is a step in the right direction to get kids in school and back to staying in school.”

While several offices through Big Sandy Health Care are already distributing the vaccine to children 5 and up, Hope Family Pediatrics is currently waiting on approval to give out the COVID-19 vaccine, with a technicality of location causing the delay.

“Since we didn’t have patients in the age group that could receive the vaccine, we hadn’t applied to distribute it, but now this covers our patients, so we’re hoping to get that approval very soon,” Mills said, explaining that since Hope Family Pediatrics is now a different building location to Hope Family Medicine, they had to have a separate approval.

But either way, she said she trusts the science backing the vaccine.

“When we get the vaccine here, I will vaccinate my daughter, who is 9 years old,” Mills said. “I always tell my parents that I will never recommend anything for your child I wouldn’t do for mine.”

Mills said she is hopeful the vaccine being opened up to a younger group of people will help drop the COVID-19 numbers and allow some things to go back to a type of normal.

“We don’t think COVID is going anywhere anytime soon, so if we can’t irradicate it, we need to make it something we can live with,” Mills said. “As pediatricians, we’re excited. Hopefully we can vaccinate and finally get back to normal life.”

Along with cutting the risks associated with contracting and spreading COVID-19, Mills explained they are hopeful the vaccine will keep down the number of hospitalizations, so no one is in the position of needing a hospital bed, but none are available.

“[Last] week Kentucky had a COVID death,” Mills said. “A couple of months ago we were wondering what we are going to do if there are no PICU beds. Anecdotally, in September there were no beds anywhere, but we were able to find a bed at Highlands NICU, and it seems to be a little bit better, recently. We never want to get to where we have no pediatric beds and another surge of COVID, RSV, or the flu runs through, again.”

Mills said clinical trials are currently being held for the youngest population, but those results are not expected any time soon.

For those who have been hesitant to send their children back to in-person school, Mills said now is the time to feel more comfortable in doing so.

“There’s a slight risk of contracting COVID, still, but breakthrough cases are generally mild,” Mills said. “If you’ve fully vaccinated your child, you can feel much more comfortable if they want to go.”

Mills also took a moment to debunk a couple of other myths surrounding the vaccine.

“The idea it can cause infertility is a myth,” Mills said. “The American Obstetrics and Gynecology came out and said it was a myth and that they recommend the vaccine to pregnant women, so it’s not going to be a concern.”

While the Johnson & Johnson vaccine did have some cases of blood clots in middle aged women, Mills said she’s not seen any data showing an issue of clotting in the Pfizer or Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

“The MRNA vaccine has been given to millions around the world and complications are exceedingly rare,” Mills said. “Usually, a vaccine reaction is an allergic reaction and it’s usually on a short-term range. With all the data of the millions of dosages given worldwide with minimal side effects, and with the safety protocols, we hope to be able to extrapolate there’s no reason why this wouldn’t be safe in children, as well.”

Mills said she has seen an increase in calls at their office of parents asking if they would recommend it, and she reiterated that they do and anyone can call and get on their waiting list for the vaccine when they are approved to distribute it.

“This is a step to normalcy,” Mills said. “We’re excited and hopeful.”

Also important to note, since last week’s paper was printed Magoffin County Schools jumped back into the red, with 17 positive students and 8 positive staff last week, moving the district into Tier 4, requiring masks in all indoor school environments and buses.

North Magoffin Elementary has seen the largest surge, with the school issuing a One Call announcement on Tuesday alerting parents that the COVID-19 numbers had increased at the school and asking everyone to monitor their children for symptoms.

As it stands, locally Frontier Medical and Big Sandy Health Care are taking appointments for children to get the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 years old and up. Big Sandy Health Care announced in a release last week that they will be distributing the vaccine at their Eula Hall Health Center, Martin County Community Health Center, and Physicians for Families, with Hope Family Health Services not at this time. People are encouraged to contact a health center nearest them for information about scheduling a vaccine for their children.

For more information about the COVID-19 vaccine for children, Big Sandy Health Care cited Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as an excellent resource for information.


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