MUNCIE, Ind. After the US Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in children ages 5-11 in late October, local health care systems are working to provide the injection to younger age groups.
IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, Meridian Health Services and Open Door Heath Services have started accepting appointments for children, and some have already given injections this week.
Open Door Health Services began immunizations for the 5-11 age group on Monday, Nov. 8 through the community’s COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at 333 S. Madison Street.
Suzanne Clem, vice president of community engagement for Open Door, told The Star Press that there have been many appointments already, with kids excited to do their part.
“Open Door’s community vaccination clinic has been an exciting place to be this week, with families waiting months for this moment to protect their children,” Clem said. “It’s encouraging for our team to hear not only parents talking about their own ‘why’ for protecting children, but also their child’s ‘why’.”
Here’s what you need to know about pediatric COVID-19 vaccines available in the area:
What type of COVID-19 vaccine is available for children?
Currently, only the two-dose Pfizer vaccine is available for children. That includes the newly approved age group of 5-11, as well as the previously approved age group of 12-17.
Lisa Suttle, Meridian’s regional vice president of clinical services, said children will go through the same process of receiving the injection as adults, with a 15-minute follow-up period after the dose is administered.
Beena Joseph, pediatrician and deputy medical director at Open Door, told The Star Press that the vaccine has been shown to be safe and well-tolerated in children, according to the clinical trials conducted for Emergency Authorization (EUA).
“They had to develop testing protocols that take into account developmental and physiological differences that are unique to children,” Joseph said. “It also required special ethical and clinical considerations and had to meet a higher standard before they could even recruit study participants.”
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For those ages 5-11, the COVID-19 vaccine contains only a third of the dose given to those 12 and older, Joseph said. The ongoing clinical trials for children under 5 contain even less. As with any other vaccine made for children, the needle is shorter for pediatric doses.
As in adults, side effects seen in children include fatigue; injection site reactions, such as swelling; and pain at the injection site. Joseph added that other common side effects were headaches, and a few children had swelling of the lymph nodes. For the most part, however, there have been no major adverse effects in children.
“What I’ve heard is from people who have already received it. For kids, it’s similar to what adults have,” Suttle said. “Some will have nothing, which is nice, but some will still have flu-like symptoms that can last for a few hours or a day.”
Why should children be vaccinated?
As students returned to school this summer, cases of COVID-19 increased almost immediately, with cases reported even after day one in some local districts.
Cases in the Muncie, Yorktown, Del-Com, and Cowan community schools seemed to dwindle since those first few months. But with the holidays approaching, things can easily pick up again.
According to each district’s COVID-19 dashboard on Thursday afternoon, there have been 586 student cases at the four schools since the start of the school year, including 197 at MCS, 178 in Yorktown, 61 in Cowan and 150 at Del-Com. Personnel files per district have remained relatively low.
Despite things improving, local health officials say the vaccine’s benefits still outweigh the potential risk.
“The risk of significant complications from infection with COVID, even in children, is greater than any risk from the vaccine,” said Max Rudicel, chief medical officer at Open Door. “In rare cases, even children with a mild case of COVID-19 can later develop a potentially fatal condition called childhood multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, which can affect multiple organ systems.”
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Kari Kendall, another pediatrician at Open Door, told The Star Press that a big misconception when it comes to COVID-19 and children is that the virus doesn’t affect them that much, which is why they don’t need the vaccine.
However, Kendall said that while children have a lower risk of developing serious illness, they have still been greatly affected by COVID-19 during the pandemic, especially as stronger variants emerged.
“More than 600 children have died in the US and many more have become seriously ill and need to be hospitalized,” Kendall said. “Vaccination is extremely effective in preventing these health complications in children.”
Since children’s mental health is also a hot topic when it comes to the impact of COVID-19, Kendall added that vaccination would most likely keep them in school and other activities, compared to if they hadn’t been vaccinated and had to be quarantined.
Healthcare professionals are also aware that it can be a difficult choice for parents, so they encourage those who have any doubts or questions to contact their child’s pediatrician.
Will the vaccine be available at local schools?
While parents try to juggle work, school schedules, sporting events, the holidays and more, during a hectic season it can be difficult to find time to plan for a COVID-19 vaccine.
That’s why local health care providers are working with local school districts to bring the vaccine directly to schools.
Now that Meridian has his own clinic at Southside Middle School, Suttle said the space will certainly be used for vaccinations once the site is approved by the state.
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“We want to get it to as many schools as possible. We can offer it in Southside, people can travel there to get it, once we get confirmation from that address,” Suttle said. Or we want to expand it, expand it to other schools and help as much as possible.”
Open Door has other innovative ways to bring vaccines to other areas, such as the mobile unit. Clem said talks are currently underway with local districts to discuss how the health care system can make vaccinations easier.
How do you make an appointment?
Local health care providers, including IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital, Open Door and Meridian, are providing COVID-19 vaccines to children ages 5-11. Here’s how to make an appointment at each.
IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital
Several primary care locations from IU Health and the Riley Pediatric Office have received a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine. Courtney Schmoll, public relations manager for the IU Health East Central Region, said patients can contact their primary care physician or pediatrician to see if they can get the vaccine there.
Locally, IU Health’s community pharmacies, including the Pavilion Pharmacy in the lobby of Ball Hospital, Blackford and Yorktown have also received the vaccine.
For these locations, patients can make an appointment through the state’s vaccine website, ourshot.in.gov, or can simply walk to the pharmacy locations during clinic hours. Appointments can also be made by calling 211. Community members, IU Health patients or not, can schedule and/or pop into Pavilion, Blackford and Yorktown pharmacies during clinic hours.
Ball Memorial’s Pavilion Pharmacy is open Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 4pm and Saturdays from 9am to 2pm. The Blackford Pharmacy is open on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10am to 2pm and the Yorktown Pharmacy is open on Wednesdays and Fridays from 10am to 3pm.
Visit iuhealth.org/covid19 for more information.
Open door health services
At this time, appointments are required for COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11 at Open Door. Parents and guardians can schedule an appointment at opendoorhs.org/covidvaccine.
When making an appointment, the site may be abbreviated as “IND OD HS MUNCIE SMADISON MPJVAX”. Those scheduling an appointment can also call 211.
Clem added that a parent or guardian must be present at the time of vaccination.
From Thursday, November 11, children who are Open Door patients can get their vaccinations at Open Door White River. This site is not part of the community vaccination program and established patients can make an appointment by calling 765-286-7000.
For more information, visit opendoorhs.org/covidvaccine.
Meridian Health Services
Office vaccinations for both adults and children require an appointment at Meridian locations. The two locations are:
- Meridian MD, 100 N Tillotson Ave. Call 765-288-8770 for an appointment.
- Meridian Pediatric Complex, 205 N Tillotson Ave. Call 765-291-5437 for an appointment.
Like all sites, appointments can still be made online at meridianhs.org/covid-19, ourshot.in.gov, or by calling 211. For more information, visit meridianhs.org/covid-19.
Charlotte Stefanski is a reporter at The Star Press. Contact her at 765-283-5543, [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @CharStefanski.