The state has said that starting today, those as young as 16 are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and those 18 or older may make appointments to get the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
With that in mind, Dr. Cynthia Christy, associate chair of pediatrics and pediatric infectious disease specialist at Rochester Regional Health talked with the media Monday saying she’s excited that people as young as age 16 can get the vaccine.
“The main reason is this is one of our mainstays of being able to control the pandemic. The kids under 10 maybe don’t really have as much illness, but the kids that are between 10 and adults, which would include 16 and up, are (in a frequency of) illness somewhere between children and adults. Not only is it the pandemic, but we’re trying to prevent infection in them,” she said.
Christy said it’s important for younger kids and adults to be vaccinated so they don’t infect other people in their family or their teachers, housemates, etc.
“Even if they, personally, don’t feel that they are at-risk, they should think about their parents and grandparents, and other people who would probably have risk factors to get more ill. I think that’s something to talk to them about also,” she said.
Why should they act quickly even if they don’t feel like they want to get the vaccine?
“I would jump at the chance ... ‘Let’s bring this pandemic to an end. Let’s keep me save from getting the infection. Let me keep my family and friends safe,’” Christy said.
What advice would she give kids who live with their parents and may be on the fence about getting the vaccine?
“If I were talking to parents and teenagers, I would tell them that this is a very effective vaccine, 100-percent effective in people with young immune systems and some very good efficacy,” she said. “They might way, ‘Well, how sick? Everyone’s talking about, I could get this or I could get that.’”
Christy said when you really look at the side effects from the COVID vaccine, it’s similar to other vaccines.
“People may have a sore arm. They might have some redness where they get the vaccine. They might have some mild symptoms of fatigue or a low-grade fever,” she said. “Really, they’re side effects that are not too serious and that they’ll get over with in one or two days. It’s a well-tolerated vaccine.”
What if the teenager’s family isn’t supportive of him or her getting the vaccine or is apathetic about it? How would Christy advise that teen to raise the issue at home?
“I think it’s really good to have a good conversation with your family. Bring your parents in. Talk to them about the facts that you know about. You do have to have your parents’ permission up the age of 18 and after that, it’s your decision, unless you’re an emancipated minor, which means a person who’s out on their own, who has their own child, for instance., could do it without parental permission,” she said.
What is herd immunity and what does making people eligible for the vaccine from age 16 to adult mean for the journey to get to herd immunity? Why is this such a big step?
“It’s important that there’s immunity throughout the population. I haven’t heard recent numbers ... I know it would be over 70 to 80 percent of the population immune so we can actually stop this pandemic in its tracks,” Christy said. “It’s important to vaccinate as many people as possible.”
Christy was asked whether teenagers will be given the vaccine in phases. such as teenagers with underlying health conditions getting the vaccine first.
“My understanding is the children with high-risk factors already had permission. Starting tomorrow (today), it’s anyone 16 and up,” she said. “It’s really opened the doors to the population.”
Because there’s been so much coverage, the associate chair or pediatrics said, people might want to figure out where they can go to get a vaccine.
“There’s the New York state website ‘Am I eligible?’ and Rochester Regional Health, for patients of the system, also has, on their website, a calculator where you can figure out where you can get your dose,” she said. “It’s become easier since vaccines started at the end of December.”
How helpful will the state-run ads that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is starting on Wednesday encouraging teenagers to get the vaccine? “I don’t know how helpful it will be. The teen has to watch the news or get it on their mobile, hand-held device or whatever device they have,” she said. “What do I think about communication? The more ways, the better. Gov. Cuomo might not be the person they’re listening to, 100 percent of the time, but I think it might be helpful.”
Christy said it will take time to get kids vaccinated and give them two to four weeks after their second shot to be thought of as immune. Whether kids with strong immune systems will need two doses or just one dose of the Pfizer vaccine is something that will be looked at over time, she said.
“My understanding of the interim data that was just released by Pfizer was that they were given two doses,” she said. “I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think they were. I think it might be too soon to tell.
“Children generally aren’t ill with this vaccine, but at least 226 kids in the United States have died from COVID-19 and thousands have been hospitalized. “It’s not (anywhere (close to) how it’s impacted adults, but children have been impacted ...” Christy said.
During the Genesee County Human Services Committee meeting Monday, Public Health Director Paul Pettit said there will no longer be any restrictions that require vaccine recipients to be in certain age groups, be essential workers or have comorbidity issues.
“We’ve been pushing for that for about a month now. We really wanted to see that open up. We’re happy with the change and we’re looking forward to giving everybody that wants to sign up the opportunity,” he said.
RRH’s vaccination scheduling tool may be found at https://www.rochesterregional.org/coronavirus-covid19/vaccine-clinic. It’s updated frequently with new availability and you do not need to be an RRH patient to schedule an appointment. The Finger Lakes Hub scheduling site may be found at https://flvaccinehub.com/getting-your-vaccine/ and the New York state “Am I eligible?” site is at https://am-i-eligible.covid19vaccine.health.ny.gov/.
The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments have vaccination and testing clinics with appointments available for Genesee and Orleans County residents.
“Whichever COVID-19 vaccine is available is the right vaccine to get now,” Pettit said in a news release issued later Monday evening. “All approved vaccines are effective and saves lives. We encourage anyone that is currently eligible to register for an upcoming clinic. Residents in Genesee and Orleans Counties are eligible to attend either clinic location when vaccine is available.”
Only the Pfizer vaccine is available to 16 and 17 year olds accompanied by a parent or guardian. Pfizer is a 2-series dose, 21 days apart, and is recommended for people at least 16 years old.
Moderna is a 2-series dose, 28 days apart, and is recommended for people aged 18 and older. Johnson & Johnson is a one-series dose and is recommended for people age 18 and older.
“It is important to note that you must be able to return for the second dose 21 days for Pfizer or 28 days for Moderna after the first dose at the location, you received your initial vaccination,” Genesee and Orleans county health officials said. “You will be making that appointment after you are vaccinated. If you cannot make that date, please do not make an appointment for a 2-dose series until you can make both appointments.”
Visit the vaccination web page at: https://bit.ly/GOHealthVaccine.
Choose either the Moderna Clinic, the Johnson & Johnson Clinic or the Pfizer Clinic button for whichever clinic site works best, to make your appointment. When you register, it will also show which vaccine will be at the clinic during that day.
In Genesee County, the clinics are held at the Athletic Center at GCC in Batavia and in Orleans County, the clinics are held at the Ridgeway Fire Hall in Medina.
“If you are interested in making an appointment to get your COVID-19 vaccination, now is the time to do it locally,” the county health officials said.