With Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine now authorized for use in children ages 5-11, many parents have questions. Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Manisha Juthani sat down with NBC Connecticut's Dan Corcoran to offer some answers.
Dan: "So Commissioner, thanks for being here, let's get right to the big development a lot of people are thinking about right now it's these younger kids can now get vaccinated. So how much of a difference will this make in the greater picture when it comes to fighting this pandemic?"
Juthani: "Well, thanks for having me. And I think it's really a momentous day in the rollout of vaccines in our country in our state. Because finally, our youngest children who are actually in school now are eligible for this vaccine, which now makes every school-aged child is practically eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine. And these are the kids who are really around other people and congregating in settings where people are around each other a lot. And by having this vaccine available, now, this is going to be the number one way that we can help keep our kids in school, keep them getting educated in person, without fears of quarantine, and all the other consequences that Covid-19 have brought to our society."
Dan: "So we're only a day into this vaccine rollout for this age group 5 to 11. But what kind of response are you hearing and seeing so far do a lot of parents seem ready to set up appointments for their kids right away?"
Juthani: "We have many families in Connecticut who are very much that are looking for ways to be able to get their kids vaccinated signing up as soon as possible. We saw some of our first shots in the state happening even yesterday evening this morning. And there are definitely a chunk of parents that have just been waiting and waiting patiently for their children to be eligible for this vaccine. And so many of them are trying to get out there. There are mass vaccination sites that are being set up in different towns, here in Hartford as well. There's going to be a large one next weekend on the 14th of November. And so there are many opportunities to be able to get vaccinated. We know that many pediatricians' offices, we're looking at school-based clinics, our DPH vans, going and being deployed at various different schools and sites throughout the state. And of course, our pharmacies. And so there going to be a lot of different ways that people can get vaccinated. That's what we're really looking forward to doing."
Dan: "Yeah, let's talk about those options, just a bit more different places to get the shot. The DPH says it's going to be partnering with some schools to hold those on site clinics, how would those work? What will those look like?"
Juthani: "So I think the first thing to keep in mind is that you can always go to ct.gov/covidvaccine. And on that site, you can put in your zip code and find out where there may be a vaccine site that is close to you. Certainly, if you have a pediatrician, feel free to call them, find out if they are going to be participating in this vaccine effort. And if you were able to make an appointment to be able to get your child in there, in terms of our specific vans and cars that we have in terms of the Covid-19 vaccine, there are a couple of different ways that we are partnering with schools, there are some schools that have their own school-based health clinics. And some of them will be doing this vaccine as well, for other schools that are interested in partnering with us and asking us to come out to be able to have our vans come on-site and be able to help be another way that kids can be vaccinated. We are working with schools as well to do that. So you can easily email our DPH contact, you can see that on the website as well to be able to get a van to a location and we can see if we can coordinate that. So we are trying to make this as easy as possible for families and allow for as many different places that children can have access to vaccines to be able to have that."
Dan: "Now we know that you're encouraging everyone who's eligible to go out there and get the shot. But are there any conversations about whether to require students in this age group to actually get the Covid-19 vaccine? Like they're required to get a vaccination for things like the measles and the mumps? Or is that something that might be discussed and happen years down the road?"
Juthani: "I think that conversation is far ways off at this point, this vaccine was just approved with emergency use authorization right now to be able to get it out there and get people vaccinated because we know this is the way out of this pandemic. But in terms of a mandate for children, we do need more time more data. And that will be something that will evolve over the months and years ahead. I think we need more information and we need more experience with this vaccine in this age group before that is really on the horizon right now."
Dan: "And lastly, what would you say to parents who might be vaccinated themselves but are a little bit not sure about getting their young children vaccinated at this point."
Juthani: "I understand that as a parent we all want to protect our children the most that is our maternal and paternal instincts. And that is definitely understandable. What I would offer is that we have seen millions and millions of Americans and people throughout this world get vaccinated. And this particular vaccine dose is 1/3 of the dose that adults are receiving. We know that children's immune systems are very robust and strong. And so that's why they are able to build a strong response with even a dose that is 1/3 the size of the adult dose. I would also say that the thing that most of us have been concerned about is myocarditis, which is that inflammation of the heart. And it seems that where we have seen this the most are some of the sort of older teenage, young adult males. But in the study that was done among the 5 to 11-year-olds with this vaccine, there were no instances of myocarditis. And the side effects that were experienced were similar to the ones that adults had, if anything, maybe a little bit less. And that may have to do also with the fact that the doses smaller. And so if I had a child between the ages of 5 and 11, I would absolutely vaccinate my child because at the end of the day, this is the way that they are going to be able to not only stay in school, but have their playdates have their outdoor and indoor activities that really are helping to maintain their social and emotional well being. And so all in all, vaccines are the way that we are going to get out of this pandemic and this are the way that our children are going to be able to return to their lives in the way that we want them too.