Dr. Rai talks process and timeline for COVID-19 vaccinations for children

Published: Nov. 2, 2021 at 7:18 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The CDC is poised to give final approval for COVID-19 vaccinations for young children. Local hospitals and clinics are ready to get guidance and vaccine shipments this week.

Prevea Health President and CEO Dr. Ashok Rai visited Action 2 News This Morning to talk us through the process and timeline for child vaccinations.

WISCONSIN SITUATION

“The state of Wisconsin, as we start talking cases per 100,000, it’s starting to trend down nicely and stay down. We’re still in a really high area just like we were last week. Brown County is still high, but trending down as well. That’s the leading indicators, the cases and the percent positivity. The lagging indicators, hospitalizations, remain high but flat. That’s a good sign that it’s not going up. Hopefully we’ll start to see a significant trend down there, and then we know both indicators are heading in the right direction and hopefully the surge will start to see an end.”

CHILD VACCINATIONS

“Essentially from a government approval, we’re halfway there. The FDA reviewed the data, they looked at the efficacy of the drug, the safety of the drug and said it’s safe for kids and it’s good for kids. In other words, it actually works. So that’s a good thing. The CDC committee will review that today and start to give recommendations to those of us who immunize. Who should get it? Should it be 5-11? Should we start with a certain class of children first and move broadly? We had to do that with adults because we had limited supply. Hopefully we won’t see that from a supply situation today. After the CDC votes--that could come today, that could come tomorrow--then they’ll put out what’s called interim guidance for us. Then we’re able to take the next step.

“First of all, that interim guidance has to come out. For lack of better words, a package insert for those of us who actually give the medication. So we need that to come out. Then you need to do training based on that advice. That will happen this week with staff. That training starts from everybody who receives the medication or the vaccination to those who draw it up to those who administer it. So there’s different areas we need to get training checked off on for them. Remember, it’s slightly different than it was for adults. Once that training is done then we’ll start to ramp up slowly. You also need to have the vaccine arrive, which I’m hoping will happen this week, maybe even today from what we’ve heard. Likely when it comes to actual scheduling, probably schedules will open up early next week to start giving it more and more to the community--middle of next week--and then really ramping up that week of Nov. 15.”

PARENT QUESTIONS AND CONCERNS

“Number one, it’s important to get educated. If you have concerns, making sure you’re taking to your own physician, pediatrician, family practitioner, somebody who actually deals with vaccines. That’s going to be very important. When we look at the data that’s been reviewed, one of the biggest things you want to look at with children is safety. There was the issue of are we going to see significant cases of myocarditis, that mild inflammation of the heart? They did not see significant risks of that. They benchmarked that against other age groups and did not see significant risk of that. So it’s really important for parents to understand that from a risk standpoint, pretty low. From a benefit standpoint, really saw good protection for children not getting sick, 90-plus percent. That’s what’s important for the child itself. Now we look at that endemic phase, getting rid of the pandemic. More and more immunity within the community is going to be necessary. That’s a secondary reason to get children vaccinated. The primary reason, though, is to protect children. I think there’s this misnomer out there that children don’t get very sick. It’s true that a lot of children don’t get hospitalized versus adults. But we still do see pediatric hospitalizations, we do see kids getting very sick, and it’s important to recognize that and not discount that. The diseases that we vaccinate against right now for kids are very rare. We want to make COVID-19 very rare for children. Only way we can do that is to encourage vaccination.”

BOOSTERS

“As of middle of last week, you can scheduled the booster you need. Pfizer can get Pfizer or one of the others. J&J can get Moderna, Pfizer or J&J. There’s a list of who can get it. For example, if you’re over 18, you can get the J&J booster or get any one of the boosters if you’ve received it. It’s important to talk to your physician or your physician’s website, schedule your vaccine, schedule your booster. It’s important we do that to keep getting that level of protection, to keep making sure our case numbers go down, and once again getting that level of immunity in the community high enough so we start to see the pandemic go away.”

ORAL MEDICATION

“Going to the FDA by the end of the month, so we may see it early parts of December. It’s important this oral medication is for those who now have gotten COVID. You need to give it within the first five days. It’s for those who have mild-to-moderate infections, not in the hospital, but it’s something we can finally do outside of an IV infusion in the clinic.”

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