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Children's, Health and Safety, News

Answers for Parents about the COVID Vaccine for Children Ages 5-11

The recent news approving Pfizer’s vaccine for emergency use authorization for children ages 5-11 by the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may leave you with a lot of questions about what is best for your child.

Children’s of Alabama pediatricians Dr. Peily Soong and Dr. Gigi Youngblood have provided information that may help.  We asked the questions, and they provided these answers.

Why do we need to vaccinate children ages 5-11, and why is it so important to make sure they are vaccinated?

Dr. Youngblood: It’s definitely important to vaccinate children in this young age group. First and foremost, receiving vaccines are how we end this pandemic. They’re crucially important for everyone affected by the pandemic. We’re losing kids. There’s a significant portion of pediatric COVID deaths that were in the 5-11 age group. We’re also seeing long term issues with these young children, including multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C), which is a really potentially dangerous inflammatory condition that happens after someone has had COVID. Different body parts can become inflamed, and it often includes inflammation of the heart muscle or myocarditis. We feel children deserve protection from these things just as much as everyone else.

How is this vaccine different from the vaccine that may be offered to people 12 years of age and older?

Dr. Soong: It is different because it is a smaller vaccine dose, about a 1/3 of the dose given to the 12-year-old to adult group. The 12-year-old to adult dosage is 30-microgram. The smaller dose for children 5-11 years old is 10-microgram. Although it is a smaller dose, it has been shown to be just as effective in terms of antibody titers, which measures the antibodies in the blood. They compared the studies for the children in this younger age group to the older group, and the antibody levels were about the same in each. Researchers felt the dose should be just as effective at preventing COVID, and a very effective vaccine for all involved.

What are the potential side effects of the vaccine, and what should we know about them?

Dr. Youngblood: Clinical trials show that the vaccine is well tolerated in children. The potential side effects for younger children were fever, fatigue, headaches, and pain at the site of the injection as well as redness and swelling. These side effects are very similar to what we are seeing in adults, but probably even better tolerated in this young age group. We have also seen that the lower the vaccine dose, the lower the side effects, and about half as many children were getting side effects to the vaccine. It seems parents are most concerned about the side effect of getting myocarditis, which keeps making the news. Keep in mind that the only vaccine that’s going to be available for children 5-11 years old is the Pfizer BioNtech vaccine, and there has not really been an increased risk with that particular vaccine. The main thing to remember about any age group and post vaccination is even though people seem to be concerned about such things as clotting risk and myocarditis, people are at a significantly lower risk of these conditions than if they were to get the virus itself. Your child may feel a little under the weather for a day or two after the vaccine, but in terms of scary things, the vaccine there is less of a risk of developing long term side effects than taking a chance with getting COVID itself.

What is some good information for parents when making the decision to vaccinate their children, and staying healthy as we approach the holiday season?

Dr. Soong: We’re anticipating that there could be another surge of the Coronavirus as a result of holiday gatherings. Last year after holiday gatherings and through the winter months, we started seeing peaks in the spread of the virus. Children can easily spread COVID, and so it’s important to get them vaccinated to help protect, not only themselves, but others with weak immune system, the elderly, and those who are not vaccinated.

Getting the vaccine is of course a very important way of protecting your child against COVID-19, but as you’re going through the process of getting vaccinated, do parents need to take other measures, at least to a certain point in time?

Dr. Youngblood: Absolutely. When your child receives the vaccine, there are two doses of 10 micrograms given 21 days apart. It is obvious that those vaccinated do not have magical protection as soon as they receive the shots. You’re not going to reach the most effectiveness until you are fully vaccinated. The body has to build protection against the virus somewhere between one to two weeks after your child receives the second dose. This is why it’s so important that children begin the series as soon as possible before the holidays to prevent another pandemic peak. Until your child has reached that maximum effectiveness, they should continue to use a mask in social settings, and wash their hands constantly. We hope that all of us have developed the habit of washing hands as a result of this pandemic and that frequent hand washing will stay with us anyway. Also, if you or your child is not feeling well or family members are not feeling well, make sure you give full disclosure to those you love, and stay away from others until you know more about what’s going on with your child or with that loved one.

Where can people go for vaccinations?  As it becomes known that Children’s of Alabama and UAB are offering the vaccine to the 5-11 age group, are there also other places you would recommend for parents to take their children to receive the vaccine?

Dr. Soong: We are always the ones that you can trust, and we take care of your children. We are very knowledgeable and a viable resource to what has been going on through this whole pandemic. Keep in mind that a good choice is also your family pediatrician. Your pediatrician sees your child on a regular basis and offers other vaccinations as well, so it is always good to ask their opinion. They may also refer you to one of the nationwide pharmacies that will be offering it to children as well.

For the more information about COVID-19, visit childrensal.org.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

With COVID-19 vaccine availability and eligibility now including individuals 5 and older, Children’s of Alabama (Children’s) is one of more than 100 pediatric hospitals across the U.S. administering the vaccine through the end of the year. Starting today, Nov. 10, the UAB Pediatric Primary Care Clinic at Children’s of Alabama will administer the vaccine to children and adolescents ages 5-18 on a limited, appointment-only basis, and parental consent is required. The clinic is not a mass vaccination site.  

Children’s recommends vaccination for everyone eligible. If possible, children should be vaccinated at their primary care physician’s (PCP) office, a local pharmacy or community vaccination site. The Children’s COVID vaccination clinic is available for children who do not have a PCP or ready access to a community site. 

Children’s is now providing vaccinations to qualified patients only in some of our outpatient clinics, designated primary care practices throughout the Birmingham area, and for inpatients as ordered by a physician. The UAB Pediatric Primary Care Clinic is the only Children’s site offering vaccinations to qualified children and adolescents who are not our patients.

While Children’s of Alabama (hospital) is not a mass vaccination site, eligible individuals may also receive the vaccine at any community site. For additional information or to find a site, visit https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/covid19vaccine/index.html. To learn more about the Children’s of Alabama pediatric practices offering the vaccine exclusively to their eligible patients, visit https://www.childrensal.org/practices 

WHERE:

UAB Pediatric Primary Care Clinic at Children’s of Alabama
1601 4th Avenue South
Children’s Park Place Clinic
Suite G60 (Ground floor)
Birmingham, AL 35233
Free parking available in the Children’s Park Place parking deck with entrances on 5th Avenue South at 16th and 17th Streets.

WHEN: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

WHO: Children and adolescents ages 5 to 18

DETAILS:

·         Vaccinations at the clinic are available by appointment only by visiting https://childrensal-iszsn.formstack.com/forms/appointmentrequest_vaccine

·         A limited number of appointments will be available each day.

·         Vaccinations at the clinic are available only to children ages 5 to 18, not to parents or adult siblings.

.         Parental consent is required.

.         The vaccine is FREE at all locations.

·         All visitors at Children’s of Alabama are screened for COVID-19 symptoms and those 2 and older should arrive wearing a mask.  Those who are experiencing symptoms of flu, coronavirus or any other contagious illness should not visit Children’s. In addition, those who have had direct exposure to COVID-19 or have traveled to a high-risk area should not visit Children’s.

Children's, Health and Safety

Is it the Flu or COVID-19?

The past year and a half has brought a lot of uncertainty during a global pandemic with fears of COVID-19. Now, as we enter cold and flu season, medical professionals are even more concerned. Delphene Noland is the manager of Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s of Alabama. She’s concerned that families, already fatigued from the pandemic, may let their guard down this flu season. “I think my biggest concern is that people become lax and forget that the flu is a real threat to our community,” she said.

There’s hope that the measures already being taken to respond to COVID-19 may help mitigate the flu. Masks, social distancing and hand washing are all helpful in limiting the spread of both coronavirus and the flu. But the increase in positive COVID-19 cases statewide shows those efforts are not enough to stop transmission entirely. That’s why Noland says it’s critical to get the flu shot this year. “It is of the utmost importance to get your flu shot,” she said. “They are available now. Make it a family event and get everyone vaccinated for the flu.”

How can parents recognize the difference between the flu and coronavirus? What complicates matters is that their symptoms are so similar. “Loss of taste and smell is hallmark COVID-19,” Noland says. “Shortness of breath, is usually seen later in the flu process if the patient gets pneumonia as a complication. But shortness of breath can be seen early on in patients with COVID-19.”

Symptoms Unique to COVID-19:

–             Loss of taste and smell

–             Shortness of breath in early stages

 Symptoms of Both COVID-19 and the Flu:

–             Cough

–             Runny nose

–             Sore throat

–             Fatigue

–             Fever

–             Nausea, Vomiting

And if your child is sick, seek guidance from your pediatrician or primary care provider. “Your pediatrician is your source of truth,” Noland said. 

Children's

Can Children and Teens Take the COVID-19 Vaccine?

So far, the COVID-19 vaccine is recommended only for people 16 and older. It’s not yet approved for children younger than that. That’s because the first safety trials didn’t include younger age groups. As safety trials continue, researchers will know more about whether the vaccine is safe and works well in younger age groups. You can find the latest vaccine information by checking the CDC’s website.

Doctors, nurses, and health workers are taking the vaccine already. Soon it will be available for the public. When it is, healthy people over age 16 can take it. Experts predict that will happen by spring 2021.

So what’s the best way to protect your family? Keep doing the things you’re already doing:

  • Wear a mask.
  • Stay at least 6 feet away from people you don’t live with.
  • Avoid crowds.
  • Wash your hands well and often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer.
  • Try not to touch your nose, mouth, or eyes unless you know your hands are clean.

For more on COVID-19, please visit our website.

Children's

Is This an Emergency?

Your child doesn’t feel well, but should you take him to the emergency department? Sometimes it’s hard to tell when a child requires urgent medical treatment or if the concern can wait.

Dr. Eric Jorge is a pediatric emergency medicine fellow at Children’s of Alabama. He’s seen children come to the emergency department who could have been treated at home. “It’s always a good place to start if your child is sick or has a fever, to call your on-call pediatrician or nurse,” Dr. Jorge said. “They can help guide you as to whether it’s appropriate to seek care in the emergency department or not.”

You should always take your child to the emergency department in a true emergency. These signs include:

Go to Emergency Department for:
• serious injury
• persistent vomiting
• trouble breathing
• not drinking enough, not urinating enough
• unusual sleepiness or confusion
• a head injury with vomiting
• eye injury
• serious burns
• ingested poison or unknown substance

Call 911 if your child:
• isn’t breathing or is turning blue
• is unconscious after a fall
• is having a seizure
• has a serious allergic reaction
• has broken a bone that sticks out through the skin
• is choking
• has a large cut that is bleeding uncontrollably

A high fever can be scary for a parent to see, however, Dr. Jorge said it’s the body’s natural defense mechanism against infection. “Fever is not actually dangerous to children,” he said. “A fever can make you feel pretty bad, but even a fever up to 104 or 105 degrees Fahrenheit can be handled at home.” He recommends giving a child ibuprofen or acetaminophen to see if that brings the fever down. Dr. Jorge also said that most children who are diagnosed with COVID-19 do not require emergency care and can be treated at home.

Babies are the exception to these guidelines, Dr. Jorge said. “Fever in a baby under 2 months old is considered an emergency. If your newborn has a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, please seek care immediately.”
Dr. Jorge stresses the importance of every child having a pediatrician. Through an established relationship with a pediatrician, a child can receive better long-term care, and there is always someone on call 24-7 to help determine the best treatment for your child when you’re not sure if you need to take them to the emergency department.
Children's

Wearing and Caring for Masks and Face Coverings

To help slow the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), health experts recommend that:

  • Stay at least 6 feet away from other people who do not live with you (called social distancing or physical distancing).
  • Clean our hands well and often.
  • Wear a mask (or face covering) when leaving our homes.
  • Follow local and national health department recommendations.

How Does a Mask Help Prevent the Spread of Coronavirus?

Coronavirus can spread when people breathe, talk, cough, or sneeze. Wearing a mask keeps the virus from reaching others. It also can stop the virus from reaching you. If everyone wears a mask when they’re out in public, fewer people will get sick.

Masks do not replace social distancing. Outside your home, stay at least 6 feet away from others who do not live with you.

Should People Who Are Not Sick Wear a Mask?

People with coronavirus may not have symptoms, but they can still spread the virus. So even people without symptoms should wear a mask.

Who Should Not Wear a Mask?

  • Children under 2 years old should not wear a mask.
  • Someone who is sick and has trouble breathing should not wear a mask.
  • Anyone who can’t take a mask off without help (for example, if they’re unconscious) should not wear a mask.

What Is the Best Way to Put on a Mask?

  1. Before touching your mask or face covering, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Pick up the mask by the strings or ear loops, if it has them. If you have a cloth face covering that does not have strings or ear loops, try to pick it up in an area that will not touch your face.
  3. Adjust the strings, ear loops, or cloth face covering so it fits snugly against your face. There should be no gaps on the side of your face.
  4. The mask should cover your nose and mouth at all times.
  5. Do not pull the mask down to talk, cough, or sneeze.

What Is the Best Way to Remove a Mask?

  1. Before taking off your mask or face covering, clean your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Untie the strings or remove by the ear loops, if your mask has them. If you have a cloth face covering that does not have strings or ear loops, remove the covering by touching a part of it that does not touch the face.
  3. Fold the mask together (with the part that touches the face on the inside) and place in a clean paper bag or into the washing machine.
  4. Clean your hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

How Should We Take Care of Masks and Cloth Face Coverings?

  • Wash any worn masks at least once a day, or more often if they look dirty. If the manufacturer gave any special directions, follow them. Use the warmest settings on the washer and dryer that’s safe for the material.
  • It’s OK to put your mask in the washing machine and dryer with your other laundry.
  • Don’t share masks unless they’re washed and dried first.
  • Don’t store your mask with other people’s masks. You can store each mask in its own clean paper bag or hang each one separately on a hook.

How Can I Clean My Mask Without a Washer and Dryer?

If you don’t have a washer or dryer, you can hand wash your mask in a bleach solution and let it air dry:

  1. Mix 4 tablespoons (60 cc) of household bleach in 1 quart (1 liter) of room temperature water.
  2. Soak your mask in the bleach solution for 5 minutes.
  3. Rinse well with room temperature water.
  4. Let mask air dry completely (in direct sunlight, if possible).
Children's

Tips for Enjoying a Safe and Healthy Halloween

Halloween is a highly anticipated day for children of all ages, but this year’s celebrations may look different due to COVID-19. Here are some tips to safely enjoy the holiday while keeping ghosts, ghouls, goblins – and germs – at a distance.

As with most activities outside the home, if you have been exposed to COVID-19 in the prior 14 days or have symptoms consistent with COVID-19, you should not participate in any in-person festivities. This includes trick or treating and handing out candy from your house. 

Dr. Gigi Youngblood, who sees patients at Pediatrics East, says that parents may need to be more involved this year to ensure that children are still following COVID-19 precautions during Halloween festivities. “Parents will need to be very hands-on this year, even with older kids who might usually go trick-or-treating on their own. We will need to supervise our kids to make sure they are being good neighbors, waiting their turn to approach the treats, hand sanitizing between houses, and keeping their masks on,” she said.

She said wiping down the candy you distribute or the treats your child receives isn’t really an effective way to control the spread of the coronavirus. “I would recommend washing hands thoroughly and wearing a mask prior to opening the sealed package that individual candies come in. Spreading out treats at the end of a driveway or edge of a yard is an effective way to prevent trick-or-treaters from clustering around a bowl or your doorway. Keep a mask on and continue to wash hands or use hand sanitizer as you replenish the treats.

And for all the trick-or-treaters who usually enjoy their candy as they move about the neighborhood, make sure they are using excellent hand hygiene. Sanitize hands between each house. “You might want to bring along a few of their favorite treats from your own home candy stash to give them when they ask to dig into their Halloween loot while still out and about,” Youngblood said. And as soon as you return home, everyone needs to wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

Costumes are always part of Halloween fun, but Youngblood said most costume masks aren’t enough to control the spread of the virus. “Halloween costume masks are often not sufficient. We need to use our typical, well-fitted, cloth masks to ensure the droplets coming from our mouths and noses are contained,” she said.

When selecting a costume, make sure it fits well to prevent trips and falls. “Reflective tape or stickers, as well as flashlights and glowsticks can help drivers spot children while they are out trick-or-treating,” said Marie Crew, director of Safe Kids Alabama at Children’s of Alabama.

“Drivers should slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods,” Crew said. “Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.”

Parents and caregivers should remind their trick-or-treaters to cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks. Look left, right and left again when crossing the street and keep looking as you cross. Crew suggests using sidewalks or paths, and where those aren’t available, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.

Visit the American Academy of Pediatrics, Centers for Disease Control and Safe Kids Worldwide for additional Halloween safety tips.

Children's

Is It the Flu or COVID-19?

These past several months have brought a lot of uncertainty during a global pandemic with fears of COVID-19. Now, as we enter cold and flu season, medical professionals are even more concerned. Delphene Noland is the manager of Infection Prevention and Control at Children’s of Alabama. She’s concerned that families, already fatigued from the pandemic, may let their guard down this flu season. “I think my biggest concern is that people become lax and forget that the flu is a real threat to our community,” she said.

There’s hope that the measures already being taken to respond to COVID-19 may help mitigate the flu. Masks, social distancing and hand washing are all helpful in limiting the spread of both coronavirus and the flu. But the increase in positive COVID-19 cases statewide shows those efforts are not enough to stop transmission entirely. That’s why Noland says it’s critical to get the flu shot this year. “It is of the utmost importance to get your flu shot,” she said. “They are available now. Make it a family event and get everyone vaccinated for the flu.”

How can parents recognize the difference between the flu and coronavirus? What complicates matters is that their symptoms are so similar. “Loss of taste and smell is hallmark COVID-19,” Noland says. “Shortness of breath, is usually seen later in the flu process if the patient gets pneumonia as a complication. But shortness of breath can be seen early on in patients with COVID-19.”

Symptoms Unique to COVID-19:

–             Loss of taste and smell

–             Shortness of breath in early stages

 Symptoms of Both COVID-19 and the Flu:

–             Cough

–             Runny nose

–             Sore throat

–             Fatigue

–             Fever

–             Nausea, Vomiting

And if your child is sick, seek guidance from your pediatrician or primary care provider. “Your pediatrician is your source of truth,” Noland said. 

Children's, Health and Safety

Parenting During a Pandemic

“During a pandemic, risk factors for child abuse and neglect like parental stress due to finances and instability increase,” said Deb Schneider, director of Children’s Hospital Intervention and Prevention Services (CHIPS) Center at Children’s of Alabama. Now that schools and childcare centers are closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to make plans to keep kids busy at home. Advance planning and working together can help reduce stress in the household.

Parenting During a Pandemic

  • Establish a routine to help children cope with anxiety
  • Limit children’s access to news and social media related to the pandemic.
  • Never discipline a child when you are angry.
  • If you, the parent/caregiver, are experiencing stress and anxiety, take a break. Call a friend or family member.
  • Family activities like walking, playing card games and working puzzles help ease stress.
  • Give children access to art supplies and music as alternatives to screen time

Being away from friends, extended family and social activities can be hard on teens and kids. To help them stay connected,  set up FaceTime or Skype playdates or visits.

Recognizing and Reporting Abuse

While kids are currently out of school due to the COVID-19 pandemic,  experts at Children’s of Alabama want to remind you of the importance of recognizing and reporting abuse of any kind.

“By learning common types of abuse and what you can do, you can make a huge difference in a child’s life,” Schneider said. “The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal from their abuse and not perpetuate the cycle.”

The four types of child abuse are:
• Physical Abuse
• Sexual Abuse
• Emotional Abuse
• Neglect

The signs of child abuse vary depending on the type of abuse, but there are some common indicators.

Warning signs of emotional abuse in children:
• Excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong
•  Extremes in behavior (extremely compliant or extremely demanding; extremely passive or extremely aggressive)
• Doesn’t seem to be attached to the parent or caregiver
• Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb sucking, tantrums)

Warning signs of physical abuse in children:
• Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts or cuts
• Is always watchful and “on alert,” as if waiting for something bad to happen
• Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt
• Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements or seems afraid to go home
• Wears inappropriate clothing to cover up injuries,i.e.  long-sleeved shirts on hot days

Warning signs of neglect in children:
• Clothes are ill-fitting, filthy or inappropriate for the weather
• Hygiene is consistently bad (unbathed, matted and unwashed hair, noticeable body odor)
• Untreated illnesses and physical injuries
• Is frequently unsupervised or left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments
• Is frequently late or missing from school

Warning signs of sexual abuse in children:
• Trouble walking or sitting
• Displays knowledge or interest in sexual acts inappropriate to his or her age, or even seductive behavior
• Makes strong efforts to avoid a specific person without an obvious reason
• Doesn’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities

Supervision is important. Know where your children are. Make sure children know sexual abuse is never their fault and that they won’t be in any trouble if they tell.

Help for Alabama’s abused children is available at the CHIPS Center. The CHIPS Center provides forensic medical evaluations, psychosocial assessments, play therapy, counseling for non-offending caregivers and other support services. All counseling and preventive services are free. If you suspect a child has been or is being abused,   please contact your county Department of Human Resources or  call the CHIPS Center at Children’s by dialing 205-638-2751. For more information,  visit childrensal.org/CHIPS.