November

Nurse manager Kristen Cherry gives a COVID-19 vaccination to Lindsey Anderson of Byram at the Batson Kids Clinic.
Nurse manager Kristen Cherry gives a COVID-19 vaccination to Lindsey Anderson of Byram at the Batson Kids Clinic.
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COVID-19 vaccination offers kids extra layer of protection, pediatricians say

Published on Thursday, November 11, 2021

By: Annie Oeth, aoeth@umc.edu

The Marshall brothers, Zenus, 7, and Major, 6, were nervous, but they rolled up their sweatshirt sleeves and were among the first to get their COVID-19 vaccinations from University of Mississippi Medical Center through Children’s of Mississippi’s Batson Kids Clinic in Jackson.

“I want them to be safe,” said their mom, Shelearria Gaylor of Jackson. “Both have asthma, so it’s important to me that they stay healthy.”

Vaccinations at the clinic, located at 421 S. Stadium Circle in Jackson near Veterans Memorial Stadium, began Thursday. Parents should make appointments for their children online at umc.edu/healthcare/make-an-appointment or by calling (601) 815-5300 or (888) 815-2005.

Zenus Marshall of Jackson, with mom Shelearria Gaylor beside him, watches as nurse manager Kristen Cherry places a bandage on his arm after COVID-19 vaccination.
Zenus Marshall of Jackson, with mom Shelearria Gaylor beside him, watches as nurse manager Kristen Cherry places a bandage on his arm after COVID-19 vaccination.

Children ages 5 to 11 are receiving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the clinic, getting a third of the dosage adults receive in each of two shots administered 21 days apart. Just like adults, those 5 to 11 years old are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second vaccine dose.   

Lindsey Anderson, 11, of Byram, got her shot this past week.

“She’s wanted to get the vaccine since her sister was able to get it at 15,” said her mother, Marietta Taylor. “After her sister was vaccinated, she said, ‘Everyone in the family is vaccinated but me.’ Now all of us are protected.”

Benjamin-Dillard
Dillard

The Batson Kids Clinic vaccination appointments are open to all children 5 to 11 years old and not just those who are Children’s of Mississippi or UMMC patients, said Dr. Benjamin Dillard, division director of general pediatrics and pediatric urgent care.

"We have volunteers from the School of Nursing, the School of Pharmacy and various departments across the UMMC campus who have stepped forward to assist in our efforts to get children vaccinated safely and efficiently," he said. "I’m extremely proud of the team we have at the Batson Kids Clinic and the efforts that are going into getting this vaccine to our patients."

Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair and professor of pediatrics, said vaccinations are a layer of protection for children as winter months and holidays approach.

Mary Taylor
Taylor

"A child who has been vaccinated has protection from catching COVID-19, spreading it to others and possibly having severe symptoms and complications,” Taylor said. "Because of the risks that COVID-19 and complications such as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome in Children (MIS-C), we think vaccination offers the best protection from serious illness.” 

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. Previously, the vaccine was available to ages 12 to 15 through an emergency use authorization approved in May.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends vaccinations for children 5 and older, and clinical trials of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are underway among children as young as 6 months.

The vaccine received full approval from the CDC in August for use in those 16 and older.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been shown to be nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages 5 to 11, which gives Dr. April Palmer, professor and chief of pediatric infectious diseases, hope.

April Palmer
Palmer

"Vaccines are our best option for ending this pandemic," she said. "We encourage parents to protect their children from COVID-19 and also to make sure their children are up to date on vaccinations against flu, measles, whooping cough and other diseases."

COVID-19's Delta variant caused the number of children hospitalized nationally to increase fivefold, according to the CDC. This summer, Children’s of Mississippi saw a “twin-demic” of RSV, a common respiratory infection, and COVID-19.

"It is a misconception that children are not affected by COVID-19," Palmer said. "Children can and do have symptoms that are life-threatening. Children are much less likely to have severe COVID-19, but we have had patients with it end up in the ICU and have 'long-COVID' symptoms that can last for months." 

Common side effects of the vaccine include pain at the injection site, fever, chills, headache, fatigue and muscle and joint pain within 24 to 48 hours of vaccination.

Unvaccinated children visiting family members at risk for COVID-19 complications could transmit the virus during the holidays, Palmer said.

"A lot of schools are not masking, which makes vaccination the only way left to get protection from COVID while going to school in person," she said. 

Taylor said vaccinations will allow children to attend school and holiday gatherings safely and visit friends and family.

"We all want to be together with our loved ones and enjoy the holidays without the risk of our children or friends and family contracting COVID-19," she said. "Vaccinating children against COVID-19 is an essential step toward a safer holiday season for everyone."