California health chief touts Covid vaccine as best shield for kids 5 to 11
SAN FRANCISCO – California’s Secretary of Health & Human Services Dr. Mark Ghaly urged members of ethnic media to spread the word about the safety and efficacy of COVID vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 currently being rolled out this week after clearance from the FDA and the CDC.
In an Ethnic Media Services briefing, Ghaly gave his assurance as “a pediatrician and father of four with three kids under 12 years and no one without at least the first dose” that “the vaccines are the way through the pandemic.”
The US Food and Drug Administration on Oct. 29 authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 through 11 years old, stating the ”immune responses of the 3,000 in trials” of the age sector were “comparable to those of individuals 16- 25 years of age.” No serious side effects “were detected” and the vaccine was “found to be 90.7%” effective, said the FDA announcement.
Children ages 5 to 11 constitute 9% percent of the state population, Ghaly said, concurring with statistics cited by moderator Regina Brown Wilson of California Black Media. Brown said that the age sector covers children who are 438,000 Asian and Pacific Islander, 171,000 Black or African American, and 1.1 million Latino.
The vaccine for the younger sector follows a “different formulation,” Ghaly stressed. “Children will get a lower dose from vaccines for adults. The Pfizer vaccine for adults is .3% while the pediatric dose is .1% or one-third of the adult dose.”
Ghaly corrected the assumption that children under 5 to 11 are not carriers or do not suffer from severe symptoms of coronavirus. As more older adults became vaccinated, the group more susceptible to infection were young people, in some cases under-18 representing 25% of the population, sometimes more, he added.
“Thirty young Californians have died from COVID,” he said, declaring, “any additional death of a young person is unacceptable if it’s preventable.”
The state health chief counted “hundreds of thousands of COVID cases among young people. “
He asserted: “60,000 young people ages 5-11 have been hospitalized in the U.S. for COVID-19. We have lost more kids to COVID than other vaccine-preventable diseases in our nation. Now is the chance to get the same protection that so many older Californians have had for so many months that have protected them and kept our community safe.”
The roll out began with 500 providers eventually to expand to 4,000 including Kaiser Permanente, Dignity Health and federally qualified health centers and pharmacies, said Ghaly.
Long-term complications of COVID for younger people “are real,” he warned. Those complications affect the cardiovascular, endocrine or neurologic system and sometimes psychiatric besides respiratory.
Ghaly fielded questions ranging from the number and representation of children sampled in the clinical trials to myths fueling vaccination hesitancy.
Young people from all regions, races, ethnicities, with or without pre-existing conditions were among the participants in the trials that took months and months of availability of the data, he said. The trials were “robust.”
On the concern about the vaccine causing fertility problems down the road, “to date” no connections have been seen in adults, male/female or youth, he attributed information from trade associations such as the American college of gynecologists and obstetricians underscoring the safety of the vaccine.
To those who say their faith prevents them from getting vaccinated, Ghaly offered to ask why this vaccine would be any different from other vaccines required by schools, for example.
“How is this one different? Why are we suddenly concerned about this one,” he asked. Those who have apprehensions should talk to their faith communities to get accurate information for a complete picture to make a determination.
“The truth is we’re talking about protecting young people and all Californians with the COVID vaccine, versus allowing people to get infected. And we know that even if you don’t have the worst consequences of hospitalization or dying from COVID, there are still are long-term repercussions we’re learning about. “
The aim is to provide global protection for younger people, Ghaly shared. Getting vaccinated has its risks, he conceded, but cautioned that anyone without vaccination will likely get infected because of the high transmissibility of the coronavirus.
On the theory that COVID 19 is a covert national experiment, Ghaly pointed to the 70,000 fatalities in California triggering the search for a “miracle for almost two years” for which the vaccine is the answer.
To those fearful of side effects promoted widely on social media, Ghaly attested to “headaches and low-grade fever” among those that turned up in trials “which should be no reason not to be vaccinated.”
He admitted that myocarditis or the inflammation of the heart muscle, and periocarditis or the inflammation of the outer lining of the heart, have been seen in teens but none in the 5 to 11 age bracket, perhaps “due to the lower dose.”
“We take those cases seriously,” he responded to the question. Those effects were “indicated, investigated and exposed” in some teen incidences out of millions and “often resolved with minimal intervention.”
Children may get the flu and COVID shots together, with the same side-effects such as headaches or low-grade fever, he said.
Ghaly’s main point was the vaccine is the “safest, most effective and successful vax seen in modern medicine.”
“Young people who get infected often have many more significant out-turns than those who get vaccinated,” he said. In short, the long-term consequences of not getting vaccinated far outweigh the impact of potential side effects.
He encouraged parents and families to reach out to their trusted sources or authorities they often turn to – whether a provider or the faith community – to get their questions answered to gain the confidence that the vaccine “is the right way to go.”