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Local voices on COVID-19: We want to hear your COVID questions.

Jun 09, 2021 11:25AM ● By Editor
What should I know about the COVID-19 vaccine and kids under 12?

By Jodi Tervo Roberts, Cook County Public Health Educator from Cook County MN - June 9, 2021

This article is the sixth in a series intended to give some local perspective on issues about COVID-19. They are also intended to help readers make an informed decision about the COVID-19 vaccines. We encourage suggestions for future topics and you can see how to do so at the end of the article.

For many, the vaccine creates a sense of relief that there is some protection from severe illness, which will allow a more normal sense of living. But, the question about keeping the whole family safe continues to arise, as many of our children are not eligible by age to be vaccinated.  Here are some of the questions we’ve gotten in public health about vaccination and safety for our youngest community members.

How do we keep our kids (ages 0-11) safe until a vaccine is available to them?

Although many state-level COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted, the pandemic has not gone away. Public health still recommends following the safety measures we have had in place for over a year for those that are unvaccinated to protect them from getting sick with COVID-19 and passing the virus on to others around them. Remember, our children and grandchildren under age 12 are not vaccinated, and some over the age of 12 are eligible, but may not be fully vaccinated yet. Local vaccination clinics for children 12-plus have just begun. Encourage children who are not fully vaccinated to continue to social distance, wear a mask in public spaces, and wash their hands. There are also things we can do with our children that have a lower risk of spreading COVID-19 such as choosing activities that are outside, with few people (keep your social circle small), stay apart and spend shorter times with others.  Even if you as an adult are fully vaccinated, consider wearing a mask in public spaces where it is difficult to social distance when you are with your children. This will help model recommended public health behavior.

Why vaccinate kids if they are relatively low risk for severe illness from COVID-19?

While the data show that children are less likely to get severe disease from COVID-19 than adults, we do not know who will have a severe outcome. We also need to be cognizant that some children may have underlying health conditions that put them at higher risk for severe disease. Additionally, like adults, some children report symptoms associated with “long COVID.” Reported symptoms include things like brain fog and fatigue, which have the potential to impact students’ ability to concentrate in class.

When we are out in the community, we are all calculating our own level of risk, and we need to be kind and respectful of everyone’s decisions surrounding risk. Lastly, children who are unvaccinated may pass it along to others who may be at higher risk.  

How do vaccine studies for children work?

Clinical trials for COVID-19 vaccinations started in adults, and slowly studies continue in real time for younger groups. Currently, clinical trials are under way for children as young as 6 months. Each vaccine company conducts their own clinical trials, and each company is at a different phase of their trials. Once they have collected enough data, they bring that data forward to the Food and Drug Administration for approval. Currently, all available COVID-19 vaccines have Emergency Use Authorization, but we expect that enough data will be collected this year for COVID-19 vaccines to seek full approval. 

When will vaccine be available for children under 12?

As of now, the expected timeline for vaccine availability depends upon age. The Minnesota Department of Health estimates that vaccine will be available for children as young as 5 sometime this fall. It is expected that children as young as 6 months will be eligible for vaccine sometime in the spring of 2022. 

It’s normal to have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines, and to feel a bit unsure as you make decisions around vaccination.  We are lucky to have fantastic local healthcare teams that will listen to you and respectfully answer your questions.  Call Sawtooth Mountain Clinic at 218-387-2330 or Grand Portage Health Services at 218-475-2235 to set up a time to talk.  

About the Author:

Jodi Tervo Roberts has a Master of Science degree and lives in Grand Marais. She is a mother of two young children and currently works as a public health educator and school liaison for Cook County. 

Each article in this series will be written by someone here in Cook County. Next week’s Q&A topic is on the COVID-19 global vaccine efforts. To submit a question for a future article, please email [email protected] or call 218-387-3605 and leave a voicemail. No question is too controversial. You can be assured that your questions will be kept anonymous. 

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