Ohio pediatricians: COVID vaccine for kids 5-11 is a ‘game-changer’

Vax-2-School eligibility expands, drawing dates announced

The federal approval of a coronavirus vaccine for children 5 to 11 is a watershed moment in the fight to protect children, get kids’ lives back to normal and reach herd immunity, Ohio pediatric leaders said Wednesday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention granted emergency use authorization Tuesday evening for the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine in children ages 5 to 11. Ohio kids can get vaccinated today and clinics around the Dayton region are planned for early next week.

Doctors from the Ohio Department of Health, Ohio Children’s Hospital Association and American Academy of Pediatrics Ohio Chapter encouraged parents on Wednesday to get their young kids vaccinated with the shot, saying it is safe and effective.

“It’s a game-changer,” said Dr. Michele Dritz, a pediatrician with Cornerstone Pediatrics in Miamisburg and a delegate with the American Academy of Pediatrics Ohio Chapter. “I wouldn’t recommend anything I wouldn’t do for myself or for my own kids. And this is a vaccine that I’ve seen the research, I’ve watched the science and I know it is both highly effective and safe.”

Nationwide, in the 5 to 11 age group, more than 8,300 kids have been hospitalized with COVID-19 (almost 40% of kids with severe COVID-19 had no preexisting conditions), over 5,000 kids have developed heart inflammation (MIS-C) from COVID-19 and 172 children have died from the disease.

Children have also paid a unique price during this pandemic: their school, activities and social lives have been disrupted during their formative years, Dritz said.

About 2,500 children ages 5 to 11 years participated in the Pfizer clinical trial, including hundreds at Cincinnati Children’s. The vaccine was found to have an efficacy rate of over 90%. Side effects were mild and rare, including injection site pain and fatigue.

“It’s safe, it’s effective and it’s the right thing to do,” said Dr. Patty Manning-Courtney, chief of staff at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Manning-Courtney explained that parents can be confident there will be no long-term side effects of the shot.

“We know that vaccine side effects happen within the first six weeks,” she said. “We know this from the COVID vaccine being administered to billions of people worldwide now, and we know this from other vaccines — that vaccines don’t live in your system long-term. They do their job, they stimulate your immune system, and then they go away. We also know for certain, we’ve seen it directly, that children can have long-term side effects from COVID. So if you’re worried as a parent about long-term side effects, you really should be concerned about the risk of COVID.”

About 55% of all Ohioans, and 65% of Ohioans over 12, have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Director of the Ohio Department of Health Dr. Bruce Vanderhoff said he is encouraged to still see over 100,000 people each month getting the vaccine, people who have likely been eligible for months and who were on the fence.

“Now, as we layer on this next important age group — a group who are out and about themselves a great deal because they go to school — it’s further encouragement because if we are able to achieve substantial numbers of pediatric vaccinations, that’s that much more of the population that is well protected and far less likely to spread the virus from one person to another,” he said.

But doctors warned that the public, including schools, should not take this as a sign to ease up on other precautions such as hand washing and masking.

“We are seeing light at the end of a very long tunnel. And I think it’s good that all of us are feeling upbeat and feeling that sense of hope. But the truth is we are not yet out of the woods,” Vanderhoff said.

All 88 Ohio counties are still experiencing high rates of transmission, meaning all residents should wear a mask in public, indoor settings, according to the CDC.

Vax-2-Million scholarship lottery expanded

To spur parents to get their kids vaccinated as soon as possible, the state’s Vax-2-School scholarship lottery opened registration to children ages 5 to 11 on Wednesday.

The program will award $2 million in scholarships to eligible Ohioans ages 5 to 25. Prizes include 150 $10,000 scholarships and five $100,000 grand prize scholarships awarded in Ohio 529 College Advantage plans. Funds can be used at the Ohio college, university, technical/trade school or career program of the winner’s choice.

The drawings for the daily prizes will be on Nov. 22 and 29, with the grand prize drawing scheduled for Dec. 2, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

Daily prize winners will be announced on Twitter and Instagram and online at ohiovax2school.com starting on Nov. 29 and ending on Dec. 3. The grand prize winner will be announced on the Ohio Lottery broadcast at 7:29 p.m. on Dec. 2.

Enter online at www.ohiovax2school.com or by phone at 1-833-4-ASK-ODH (1-833-427-5634) once at least a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine has been administered.