Pediatric Services Program

Tammy Minnier, M.S.N., UMPC's Chief Quality Officer, was present during the UMPC's 33rd Briefing since the start of the pandemic to discuss COVID-19 booster shots.  Minnier said, "We all know that the facts regarding COVID-19 have been difficult to follow at times, overwhelming even.  When it's hard to keep up with all of this new information, it's hard to know what decisions to make.

"It's important that the community members hear truthful accurate information from trusted doctors and healthcare organizations and researchers, not from Dr. Google.

"I want to lay out three facts that I have come to use over the course of these months to communicate the importance of how we actually respond to what's happening with COVID today.

"First and foremost, wear your mask.  You need to continue to wear the mask.  The mask prevents transmission, that's what it does.  It's super important.

"Second, get your COVID vaccine.  I cannot say this enough.  They are very safe and will help you and everyone around you, really lessen the real risk, which we are sadly seeing of infections that are ending badly.  People who die from COVID are not vaccinated.  It is important to recognize the risk of that death.  Today, if you are unvaccinated, you have a 10 times higher risk of dying for COVID.  I, for one, along with the people that I care about and the people that we work with don't want to see that happen, and we don't believe that is a risk worth taking because the vaccines are so very safe and effective.

"Three, if by chance you get sick, or if you are an individual that hasn't had the vaccine and not been able to respond, please seek out immediate testing, and remember monoclonal antibodies.  Monoclonal antibodies save lives also.  They are a very effective treatment, very safe, and they have allowed us to save multitudes of individuals over this past 20 months.  So, mask, vaccine, and if you have COVID, monoclonal antibodies.  That's the recipe that's going to allow us to move from this pandemic to be able to continue to re-emerge in a future state for the entire world.

"Boosters have been evolving almost since the beginning of vaccine development, and all of us even know of many other diseases where we've received booster vaccines to stay safe.  COVID is no different than that.

"You can also get boosters with a lot of flexibility now.  It's not as if you have to follow a single trajectory, and that is because the vaccines have been proven to be so effective and actually work well with each other.

"We really want you to get your booster.  If you're eligible, please do it.  It will add that extra level of protection.

"If you want to talk about the choices of boosters, call your primary care physician or call us.  We want to be a trusted source of information to guide you through some of these issues.  Experts are necessary for all of us to be empowered and make our own decisions and make empowered decisions.

"Another great advancement that I'm super excited to talk about is vaccination in our younger kids.  The five 11-year-olds, as we know, were just approved earlier this week, and we began the vaccination of those kids on Wednesday and had a wonderful turnout and have continued to see a very positive outpouring. "But, we have with us today one of our experts who I've had the privilege of working with, Dr. Alejandro Hoberman from our Pediatric Services Program with Children's is going to talk about our plans for vaccination of the five to eleven-year-olds."

You can now get a booster with more flexibility."

"The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children five to eleven years is here and we are ready," said Dr. Alejandro Hoberman, Pediatrician and President of UPMC's Children's Community Pediatrics.  "We have a lot of experience with this vaccine in adults and adolescents.  It has been thoroughly studied in young children, and it showed the same outcome.  It is safe and effective and it will save lives.

"There have been six and a half million cases of COVID in children of all ages in the United States, and 750 deaths overall.  In children five to eleven years, almost two million cases.  Over 8,300 children have been hospitalized, and over 5,000 children had the multi-system inflammatory syndrome or MIS-C, and 94 five to eleven-year-olds have died.  In October, 10% of all COVID cases in the United States are in this age group.  If there is a silver lining to this horrible pandemic, it is probably that poor outcomes or death for children who have COVID 19 are lower than for older adults, but still, COVID is among the top 10 causes of death in children.

"Children can have serious outcomes, and children can transmit the virus to vulnerable families and community members who are at high risk for severe outcomes.  These include grandparents, family members, or friends with cancer or other immune-suppressing illnesses.  And, vaccinated children may often carry the virus to them.

"More than two-thirds of hospitalized children have been black or Hispanic.  Tragically, 750 children have lost their lives to this virus.  This is four times greater than the number of deaths caused by any flu epidemic in the last 20 years 750.  Some may say the rates are low, but in my eyes, it's 750 too many.  Each one was a child who lost a long future and who left behind those who loved them.

"We need to understand that this is now a vaccine-preventable disease like measles or polio and many other diseases that can affect children.  As a society, we must protect our children, and the vaccine can do this.  And, UPMC Children's Primary Care and UPMC Children's Community Pediatrics are here to help.  We have a thoughtful and equitable process that involves pediatric practices and community partnerships to ensure that every child in our region and the communities that UPMC touches will have access to the vaccine, regardless of insurance status.

"The moment these vaccines were authorized, we began vaccinations.  Within one day, over 10,000 pediatric vaccination appointments have been scheduled.  The majority of COVID-19 vaccines will be given at our pediatric practices.  This is because families and children are comfortable in these offices, and giving vaccines is what we do as pediatricians.  Our pediatricians will answer all questions that parents have about the COVID-19 vaccine.  Along with trust, equity remains our core commitment.

"While we have a robust plan to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine at 55 CCP locations across Western and Central Pennsylvania and the children's primary care centers, we're also setting up community-based and school-based clinics as fast as we can.  Just as UPMC has proudly co-hosted 57 school and 44 community-based vaccination clinics for children 12 and older, we're excited to do this for younger children, by partnering with school districts and community organizations to protect our children and our community.  Please reach out to us if you're interested in having a vaccine clinic in your school or your community.

"We encourage family members to talk to us about their concerns.  Our clinicians at CCP and UPMC's Children's want to hear your questions, and we want to have a dialogue with any family member about the benefits and risks of any pediatric vaccine, not just the Pfizer vaccine.  That is what we're here for, to help explain the science and the data.

"The vaccine for children provides the lowest dose we can give than to protect them, which is one-third of the adult dose and with the fewest side effects.  It provides instructions for training for their bodies to recognize the virus and help the body mitigate or eliminate it.  It trains the body, and then it's gone.  The vaccine does not stick around.

"Many concerned parents have asked specifically about myocarditis, which is an inflammation or irritation of the heart muscle.  The most common symptoms are chest pain, shortness of breath, and the sensation of an irregular heartbeat.  Myocarditis is rare.  Likely five per million doses and the vast majority of children fully recover promptly.  Multiple sources of data in this country and abroad show that serious vaccine effects are very rare and that the benefits of vaccination against COVID-19 far outweigh the risks of vaccines, such as myocarditis.  Actually, the rates of myocarditis are much higher for people who get COVID-19, and usually more severe than those who receive the vaccine. 

"One last point I would like to make, across the United States school classrooms close because of COVID cases.  When this happens, we interrupt the education and socialization that the children need.  They need sporting events, they need their friends, they need the activities, the learning, the birthday parties, and time with their grandparents, all essential in their development.  If we all do our part, we can protect ourselves, our families, our neighbors, and our beautiful community and put an end to this pandemic."

To learn more, go to Vaccine.UPMC.com, call (844) 876-2822, or ask your doctor.

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