After receiving a COVID-19 shot at school earlier this week, 7-year-old Etta Bastian has some advice for other Utah kids.
“I’d tell them to give them the chance and to be really brave about it,” said Etta, a freshman at Hillsdale Elementary School in West Valley City. Although she admitted to being nervous beforehand, “it just felt like a little squeeze on my arm.”
While Etta said she doesn’t talk much about COVID-19, she said she is concerned “about people getting sick and dying”.
It’s worth feeling protected from the virus and helping others, she said.
“I knew I’d be safer for a while,” Etta said, and able to do what she’s missed most during the pandemic, to “get on a plane and travel to see my family.” Now, Etta is looking forward to a Christmas trip to see her mother’s family in Houston after she unexpectedly lost her father to a non-COVID-19 illness earlier this year.
“It was a very easy decision,” Cortney Bastian said of getting Etta vaccinated. “She’s a brave girl and she wanted to do her part. We both felt this was the right thing to do. We have enough faith in science to know that this is slightly more beneficial than harmful.”
Since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave final approval last week to vaccinate children ages 5 to 11 against COVID-19 with two pediatric doses of Pfizer vaccine three weeks apart, nearly 5% of the Utahns in that age group already have the first of two shots, according to the Utah Department of Health.
While the smaller doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine — they’re one-third the dose given to those 12 and older — were available in some places in Utah last week, shots continue to roll out to local health departments, pharmacies and doctor’s offices.
Utah’s numbers look good so far for Dr. Andrew Pavia, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at the University of Utah Health and director of hospital epidemiology at Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City.
“It’s a really great start. In just one week, with still quite limited places for people to get their children vaccinated, we have vaccinated 17,000 children or nearly 5% of eligible children,” Pavia said, calling it “great news that the vaccine is getting excited.” embraced. ”
But it’s because cases of coronavirus in young children are reaching record levels.
There are now an average of nearly 59 cases per day for every 100,000 Utah children ages 5 to 10, based on a seven-day moving average calculated by the state health department. That compares with a moving seven-day average of 56.6 cases per day per 100,000 children aging at the height of the pandemic last winter.
School-age children accounted for about one-fifth of the 1,531 new cases of COVID-19 in the state on Wednesday, including 172 ages 5 to 10. Since the start of the pandemic, more than 600 Utahns aged 14 or younger have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and two young people from Salt Lake County have died.
“We thought we’d never see anything worse,” said Pavia, than the “darkest days of last January.”
Younger children are affected “much, much harder” by the delta variant of the virus because it’s so easily transmitted, the doctor said, and colder weather means they spend more time indoors. An even bigger factor, Pavia said, is that schools in Utah no longer require masks.
“Most blame, I think, should be put on the fact that we did an excellent job last year making schools safe through masking, distancing and testing. And we’ve abandoned most of those practices in many, but not all, of our schools,” he said, after the Utah legislature made it difficult to impose such mandates.
‘I thought it was pretty cool’
Jennifer Whipple, who teaches the first grade at Eastwood Elementary School in Salt Lake City, said it was important to her as a parent and educator to get her daughters Abbie, 10, and Norah, 6, vaccinated against COVID-19 if possible.
“As a teacher, I thought it was important to me to let my kids get it so they have a level of protection when they’re in school,” Whipple said, also helping to make sure they don’t unknowingly spread the virus to their children. teachers and classmates.
“Children are carriers and don’t always know that. I feel they are being vaccinated to slow the spread,” she said, as children are more likely to get the virus without showing any symptoms. “It’s hard for their parents to keep them at home if they don’t know that they are sick.”
Getting the photos gives her peace of mind about having her own kids in school, Whipple said.
“My children have worn their masks even though there is no mask mandate,” she said. “I feel a little more comfortable saying, ‘Okay, once you’re fully vaccinated, we can relieve a little bit. They can feel a little more comfortable and worry less about all those things. feeling that the less they have to worry about these things, the more they can enjoy life.”
Two days after getting their injections at another elementary school nearby that offered vaccinations before Eastwood, both Abbie and Norah said they felt fine after having sore arms where they received the injection. Norah, her mother said, is like most kids her age who don’t like to get an injection.
“I think I felt, I don’t know, a little happy that I got it because again, it’s not very nice to wear masks,” Abbie said. “But I also did it to be a better influence on my sister and also to protect my father,” who recently had surgery.
Getting the vaccine “will make you feel safer, knowing there’s less of a chance that you’ll actually get sick and have to go to a hospital,” the 10-year-old said. “I was pretty excited to get it, but I still had that one gut feeling, like there would be side effects. But when I got it, I felt pretty good.”
The shot also seemed like an adult thing, she said.
“Knowing like almost every other adult has it that wants to get it. … I thought it was pretty cool that I could be included in that,” Abbie said, adding that most of her friends are also getting vaccinated and looking forward to when they “can hang out more without masks and stuff.”
“This is the time”
It takes two weeks after the second pediatric dose for children to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19, so if you start the injections now, they can be fully protected before Christmas, Pavia said. Even a first dose can provide children with some protection for Thanksgiving, Pavia said, advising parents not to wait.
“A lot of people say, ‘I don’t want to go first. I want to see how it goes’, a very understandable feeling. I think now, with a million children vaccinated in the US, you will not be the first,” he said. “With the benefits of protecting your family from Christmas, now is the time to move on.”
Doctors are confident in recommending the vaccine because of the success of the clinical trials, where no serious side effects were reported. The smaller dose for children should improve the safety of the injections, Pavia said, although it remains to be seen whether there are side effects, which are expected to occur “at a rate of about one in a million.”
For the most part, the doctor said children tolerate the vaccine better than teens and young adults, and have fewer fevers, chills, muscle aches and headaches, likely as a result of receiving a smaller dose. Sore arms are common, he said, and some will experience fatigue, chills and fever.
Jesus Rubio, of West Valley City, said he and his wife Velia were initially hesitant to vaccinate Derek (10) and Delilah (6), but woke them up from the couch on Saturday to take them to a vaccination clinic. Rubio said they changed their minds about his wife’s experience with COVID-19 patients as an intensive care technician in a hospital intensive care unit.
“She saw everything happen, people died. She said, ‘I don’t want that to happen to us,’ said Rubio. He said they explained to their children, “You don’t want your grandma and grandpa to get sick, do you?” Their answer was no, but “at first they were a little scared.”
But both children got the injections after their father rejected misinformation about the vaccines they had picked up on social media. Derek had a mild headache and Delilah a sore arm after vaccination, but both were fine the next day, Rubio said.
“They got on board. They’re just better off. We don’t have to worry about them being sick or someone else getting sick,” he said. The kids will continue to wear masks at school and in crowds, Rubio said, but hopefully they will change by the end of the year.
“I know it’s hard for them, but they understand now. They see the outcome of the vaccination,” Rubio said, adding that he would like to see more Utahns make the same choice. “Let’s get this thing rolling. The more people get it, the better off we are.”