Dr. Geraldine Luna, medical director at the Chicago Department of Public Health, says that the first week of child vaccinations showed some early indications of disparities in vaccination rates along racial and ethnicity lines, but that interest seems to be increasing.
“We saw that our clinics are now completely full for the following three weekends, so that is very exciting. Our clinics are mainly located in those communities more highly hit people of color where we’ve seen the lower vaccination rates. But we hope that the culture around the vaccine changes,” said Dr. Luna.
Dr. Yessenia Castro, a pediatric hospitalist and assistant professor of pediatrics at Loyola University Medical Center, has treated children who developed multi-system inflammatory syndrome, a serious complication of COVID-19 infections in children.
“I’ve seen the children who have come into the hospital with acute COVID or multi system inflammatory syndrome … And we certainly want to prevent those serious hospitalizations for the children who contracted COVID-19 with the vaccine,” Dr. Castro said.
Recent reports from Virginia of pharmacists using adult vaccine vials to administer one-third doses to children have surfaced, possibly resulting in those children getting insufficient doses of the vaccine, have created concern among parents. Dr. Castro advises them to look for a color-coded vial when their child is vaccinated.
“We have already had our training in pediatrics in Illinois for vaccine distribution and the vial comes in a different color – it’s an orange vial, [which is the correct dosage for the child.]” Dr. Castro said. “And if you are concerned, you can certainly ask the physician or the provider who is giving the vaccines.”
Dr. Luna emphasized that as the holidays approach, the best way to ensure everyone’s safety is 100% vaccination. But for those who expect to see unvaccinated family over the holidays, she offers some advice.
“Keep the ventilation in the room as much as possible. Use a mask if you can’t have a safe distance, especially if you have 65 years and older that are not vaccinated … the risk is always there if we’re gathering and we have unvaccinated individuals around us,” Dr. Luna said. “So I would highly highly recommend if you’re planning to sit down at Thanksgiving…we just need to get completely vaccinated and leave this pandemic behind.”
For those who do contract COVID-19, a new option for treatment is on the horizon – Merck and Pfizer have developed antiviral pills that are nearing approval.
“Fifty percent has shown fifty precent efficacy taken five days after the initiation of symptoms … with the certainty that it did decrease hospitalizations and it did decrease death related to COVID 19,” says Dr. Luna. “We hope to have Merck probably by the first week of December already out there helping our people who already have the disease to keep them out of the hospital.”
Dr. Castro says that as more children get vaccinated, she hopes to see the number of infections finally wane in time for holiday celebrations.
“My two little girls got vaccinated yesterday in the hopes that they have some protection coming in towards Thanksgiving three weeks from now. Their second dose and a few weeks after that, full immunity. So we’re really excited about celebrating Christmas with the whole family and I hope that other parents can trust in the vaccine the way us science moms are super excited about it and vaccinating our kids so we can celebrate the holidays.”