The first day Elizabeth Rigney’s parents asked if she wanted to be part of the Pfizer vaccine study, the 8-year-old gave a rather mature answer.
“Maybe,” Elizabeth said pragmatically.
The next day she came closer to a decision.
“Maybe, maybe,” she replied.
A day later, the third division team had made its decision. She would. She wanted the coronavirus to be over. Asking at Christmas if the COVID-19 pandemic is over hadn’t worked. But the shot might, she reasoned.
Read more:COVID Vaccine Planner, MS County Health Department Appointments for Children Ages 5-11
Perhaps the vaccine would completely eradicate the virus that made her virtually learn at one point and later leave her behind a face mask and five feet away from her classmates.
More than a week ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the green light to the Pfizer vaccine, in a smaller dose, for children ages 5-11. Mississippi began the rollout Monday. Pediatricians around the world were quick to support its use, saying the immunization will allow schools to resume normal activities, lower the transmission rate and keep children who do get the virus out of hospital.
Elizabeth is here to say the shot is in order. dr. Johnathan Shook, a pediatrician in Hattiesburg, is here to say it’s safe and effective.
“We know it works and we can give it with confidence,” Shook said. “I think it’s just a modern scientific miracle that we have this vaccine to protect us and get us out of this pandemic.”
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Some parents of Shook’s young patients have been waiting for the vaccine for months, hoping to restore normalcy.
For others, the COVID-19 delta variant that swept through the state over the summer, increasing the number of cases and deaths, especially among children, left them craving a pediatric dose of the injection.
While the coronavirus is typically not as severe in children compared to adults, it has changed the way children learn, leaving some without parents and grandparents and others struggling with mental health issues.
The state has reported nearly 100,000 pediatric COVID-19 cases in children, according to the Mississippi chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, since the virus crept into Magnolia State in March 2020. When the delta variant rose from July to September, six children died of coronavirus-related causes.
Read more:Mississippi pediatricians recommend children get COVID vaccine to prevent long-term COVID
“COVID is definitely a threat to our children,” Shook said.
One such threat is Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children – MIS-C. It is a rare and serious condition that is thought to be a delayed response to COVID-19 that attacks the body’s healthy cells. With MIS-C, various parts of a child’s body can become inflamed, such as the skin or gastrointestinal organs.
Others infected with the virus can have lasting side effects, known as long-term COVID.
Myocarditis and pericarditis — heart inflammation — are also concerns that parents bring to the table. But some parents worry that heart inflammation is actually caused by the vaccine.
“Adolescents 16 and older and some young adults in their 20s had a slightly higher incidence of myocarditis after the COVID vaccine,” Shook said. “The numbers were relatively small. Most of those cases were mild and resolved within a week or so.”
He called the risk of heart inflammation low and reassured that researchers and scientists are closely monitoring side effects of vaccines for what he calls “the most controlled rollout” in vaccine history. Not every side effect is directly correlated with getting the shot, Shook explained.
When it comes down to it, the Pfizer injection for kids ages 5-11 has been found to be over 90% effective in that age group. And for the parents uneasy about the speed with which the vaccine was given the green light, Shook offers the science behind them.
“Vaccines have been useful for many different diseases for decades,” Shook said. “This vaccine has been shown to be very safe with the research studies we have on it, and it doesn’t appear to cause significant short-term effects at this time.”
Messenger RNA — mRNA — vaccines, like the Pfizer, don’t use a live virus. Instead, they’re made in a lab to teach cells how to make a protein that triggers an immune response in the body, according to the CDC. The vaccine was held to the same Food and Drug Administration standards as other immunizations.
“The vaccines still seem like the wisest and safest choice,” Shook said.
He would know. He is a pediatrician. He follows the investigation closely. And three of his four children got the chance.
Getting the shot is not so bad
For Elizabeth, who wanted to become a scientist in August, this was her chance to make history. She offered her left arm on August 19 and received the first cane. The second shot was on September 20.
It hurt a little, Clara’s precocious older sister said, but really, it’s no different from any of the other injections she’s had.
Bethany Rigney, Elizabeth’s mother, did not force her daughter to get the shot for the Pfizer vaccine trial. She knew that Elizabeth, who is “extremely tough” and mature for her age, would make the decision that best suited her.
In between licking her cotton candy ice cream, almost two months after her second dose, Elizabeth said she was scared at first when she thought about the injection. But then she thought about how she just wanted the pandemic to be over.
The trial of the Pfizer vaccine means Elizabeth isn’t sure if she got the real deal or a placebo. However, Bethany thinks the fever her daughter briefly ran and a day of lethargy that followed are strong indicators that Elizabeth has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
“What would you say to someone if you wanted to convince them to get the vaccine?” Bethany asked her daughter.
“I already said that,” Elizabeth reminded her. “It’s just a normal shot.”
Do you have a health story? Or a health tip? Send it to [email protected], on Twitter at @HaselhorstSarah or call 601-331-9307.