Leading Racine pediatrician says all kids should get vaccinated against COVID-19. Here’s why | Local News

MIKE STOBBE
Associated Press
RACINE — Dr. Margaret Hennessy sees getting the COVID-19 vaccine as like wearing a seatbelt.

Most days, you won’t get a car crash, but if you do, but you’ll likely be safer if you already put on a seatbelt.

If you get COVID-19, you’ll likely survive if vaccinated or unvaccinated, but you are more likely to survive and not face long-term illness if vaccinated. The risk of myocarditis, a rare but serious heart inflammation, is also more likely to be a side effect of the COVID-19 illness itself than it is to be a side effect of the vaccine.

Hennessy, a pediatrician at Ascension All Saints, is advising virtually all of her patients to get vaccination against COVID-19. That now includes children under the age of 5 but older than 6 months. “Is it necessary? I would say yes,” Hennessy said.

Even if patients are perfectly healthy, Hennessy thinks everyone should get vaccinated, since so many typically healthy people have gotten seriously sick from COVID-19, died from it, or are suffering the long-term effects known as “long COVID,” which can include ongoing breathing problems, unceasing fatigue, sleep problems, inability to concentrate and headaches.

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“You can’t know who isn’t going to be OK,” Hennessy said.



Walensky

Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Saturday, for the first time after two months of research, recommended the vaccines for the littlest children. The final signoff came hours later from Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the agency’s director.

“We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can,” Walensky said in a statement. While the Food and Drug Administration approves vaccines, it’s the CDC that decides who should get them.

Doses likely won’t be available to children between 6 months and 5 years old for at least another week, Hennessy said.

To set up a vaccine appointment, she encouraged parents to contact their child’s pediatrician via the MyChart application for Ascension patients. Similar applications exist for other health networks, such as LiveWell for Advocate Aurora Health. Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy also plan to offer the vaccines.

The shots offer young children better protection from hospitalization, death and possible long-term complications that are still not clearly understood, the CDC’s advisory panel said. Decades of vaccine research leave Hennessy with no worries about children getting the vaccine now facing long-term side effects, particularly considering there are documented long-term effects from COVID itself.

“The vaccine doesn’t stick around” inside the body, Hennessy said. She explained vaccines as essentially teaching the body to fight a virus, then leaving, not unlike a teacher who can impart knowledge multiplication tables to students, and then those students will continue to know how to multiply for the rest of their lives even after they leave the classroom.

According to an international review of 12 studies of COVID-19 in children, published in December: “Children infected with (coronavirus) are usually asymptomatic or have mild coronavirus disease (COVID) with low rates of hospitalization (less than 2%) or death (less than 0.03%). Reported hospitalization rates might overestimate severity as many studies do not specify whether children are hospitalized with COVID or because of COVID. The disease burden is higher in adolescents, who are more frequently infected and hospitalized than younger children.”

The government has already been gearing up for the vaccine expansion, with millions of doses ordered for distribution to doctors, hospitals and community health clinics around the country.



Walgreens

Walgreens pharmacists are prepared to help children feel comfortable during an appointment and stores are ready with activity sheets and stickers to help pass the time during the 15-minute observation period.



WHAT KINDS ARE AVAILABLE?

Two brands — Pfizer and Moderna — got the green light Friday from the FDA and Saturday from the CDC. The vaccines use the same technology but are being offered at different dose sizes and number of shots for the youngest kids.

Pfizer’s vaccine is for children 6 months to 4 years old. The dose is one-tenth of the adult dose, and three shots are needed. The first two are given three weeks apart, and the last at least two months later.

Moderna’s is two shots, each a quarter of its adult dose, given about four weeks apart for kids 6 months through 5 years old. The FDA also approved a third dose, at least a month after the second shot, for children with immune conditions that make them more vulnerable to serious illness.

In studies, vaccinated youngsters developed levels of virus-fighting antibodies as strong as young adults, suggesting that the kid-size doses protect against coronavirus infections.

However, exactly how well they work is hard to pin down, especially when it comes to the Pfizer vaccine.

Two doses of Moderna appeared to be only about 40% effective at preventing milder infections at a time when the omicron variant was causing most COVID-19 illnesses. Pfizer presented study information suggesting the company saw 80% with its three shots. But the Pfizer data was so limited — and based on such a small number of cases — that experts and federal officials say they don’t feel there is a reliable estimate yet.

SHOULD MY LITTLE ONE BE VACCINATED?

The CDC says yes. While COVID-19 has been the most dangerous for older adults, younger people, including children, can also get very sick.

Hospitalizations surged during the omicron wave. Since the start of the pandemic, about 480 children under age 5 are counted among the nation’s more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to federal data.

“It is worth vaccinating even though the number of deaths are relatively rare, because these deaths are preventable through vaccination,” said Dr. Matthew Daley, a Kaiser Permanente Colorado researcher who sits on the CDC’s advisory committee.

In a statement Saturday, President Joe Biden urged parents to get them for their young children as soon as possible.

WHICH VACCINE SHOULD MY CHILD GET?

Either one, said Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s vaccine chief.

“Whatever vaccine your health care provider, pediatrician has, that’s what I would give my child,’’ Marks said Friday.

The doses haven’t been tested against each other, so experts say there’s no way to tell if one is better.

One consideration: It takes roughly three months to complete the Pfizer three-shot series, but just one month for Moderna’s two shots. So families eager to get children protected quickly might want Moderna.

WHO’S GIVING THE SHOTS?

Pediatricians, other primary care physicians and children’s hospitals are planning to provide the vaccines. Limited drugstores will offer them for at least some of the under-5 group.

U.S. officials expect most shots to take place at pediatricians’ offices. Many parents may be more comfortable getting the vaccine for their kids at their regular doctor, White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha said. He predicted the pace of vaccination will be far slower than it was for older populations.

“We’re going see vaccinations ramp up over weeks and even potentially over a couple of months,” Jha said.

CAN CHILDREN GET OTHER VACCINES AT THE SAME TIME?

It’s common for little kids to get more than one vaccine during a doctor’s visit.

In studies of the Moderna and Pfizer shots in infants and toddlers, other vaccinations were not given at the same time so there is no data on potential side effects when that happens. But problems have not been identified in older children or adults when COVID-19 shots and other vaccinations were given together, and the CDC is advising that it’s safe for younger children as well.

WHAT IF MY CHILD RECENTLY HAD COVID-19?

About three-quarters of children of all ages are estimated to have been infected at some point. For older ages, the CDC has recommended vaccination anyway to lower the chances of reinfection.

Experts have noted re-infections among previously infected people and say the highest levels of protection occur in those who were both vaccinated and previously infected.

The CDC has said people may consider waiting about three months after an infection to be vaccinated.

Associated Press writer Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

History of vaccine mandates in the US

1777: George Washington mandates smallpox vaccines for all his soldiers

1777: George Washington mandates smallpox vaccines for all his soldiers

During the Revolutionary War, American soldiers were susceptible to smallpox, but the majority of British troops were immune due to childhood exposure or vaccination. The Continental Army’s major military campaigns failed, as smallpox outbreaks swept through its camps. So the Continental Congress authorized Gen. Washington to require his troops to get vaccinated. Subsequent victories of American forces were attributed to the smallpox vaccine mandate.



1809: Massachusetts institutes the first vaccine mandate

1809: Massachusetts institutes the first vaccine mandate

This law authorized local boards of health to require smallpox vaccinations for those over 21. Other states subsequently passed similar legislation. However, opposition to mandatory vaccination increased as states began to enforce these laws. Vaccine mandates were repealed in California, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Utah, West Virginia, and Wisconsin. In 1905, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the authority of states to enforce vaccine requirements in the landmark case Jacobson v. Massachusetts.



1813: Congress establishes the US Vaccine Agency

1813: Congress establishes the US Vaccine Agency

The agency was established by the Act to Encourage Vaccination, which was signed into law by then-President James Madison. Baltimore physician James Smith initially oversaw the agency as the national vaccine agent. The United States Postal Service was required to carry vaccine-related packages under 0.5 ounces for free to aid the agency’s efforts toward mass vaccination.



1855: Massachusetts institutes the first school vaccine mandates

1855: Massachusetts institutes the first school vaccine mandates

Today, all 50 states have vaccine mandates for children attending school. Religious exemptions are allowed in 44 states as well as Washington D.C., and 15 states allow for exemptions because of the parents’ philosophical beliefs. However, all states allow for medical exemptions.



1867: The Urbana, Ohio, board of health passes a law requiring citizens to get available vaccines in the event of future epidemics

1867: The Urbana, Ohio, board of health passes a law requiring citizens to get available vaccines in the event of future epidemics

The mandate was announced in the Urbana Union on July 10, 1867. A photo of the article was tweeted by Central Michigan University professor and historian Andrew Wehrman, who authored “The Contagion of Liberty: Smallpox in the American Revolution.” Professor Wehrman shared the tweet after Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan, whose congressional district includes the city of Urbana, tweeted, “Vaccine mandates are un-American.”

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1898: The UK’s Vaccination Act allows objections and exemptions to vaccine mandates

1898: The UK’s Vaccination Act allows objections and exemptions to vaccine mandates

The law contained a conscience clause to allow exemptions to mandatory smallpox vaccination. This clause is the origin of the term “conscientious objector,” which now refers to those who object to compulsory military service. More than 200,000 vaccine exemptions had been issued by the end of 1898.



1905: The US Supreme Court decides Jacobson v. Massachusetts

1905: The US Supreme Court decides Jacobson v. Massachusetts

The case upheld the right of individual states to mandate vaccination. In its decision, the Court maintained that a law requiring smallpox vaccination was a reasonable exercise of the state’s right to protect public health and safety and did not violate an individual’s civil and legal rights under the Fourteenth Amendment.



1922: The US Supreme Court decides Zucht v. King

1922: The US Supreme Court decides Zucht v. King

In the case of Zucht v. King, the United States Supreme Court decided that unvaccinated students could be constitutionally excluded from attending schools in the district of San Antonio, Texas. The decision upheld the right of local governments to require vaccinations as a condition for attending public schools, ruling that unvaccinated individuals could be denied access to education. The court argued that public health trumps an individual’s right to education.



1944: The US Supreme Court decides Prince v. Massachusetts

1944: The US Supreme Court decides Prince v. Massachusetts

The court ruled that mandating childhood vaccines comes under the doctrine of parens patriae, in which the state exerts authority over child welfare. In their decision, the justices wrote that parental authority is not absolute and can be restricted if doing so is in the child’s best interest. They went on to say freedom of religion does not give parents the right to expose their community or their child to a communicable disease, or the child to the possibility of illness or death.

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1977: The nationwide Childhood Immunization Initiative begins

1977: The nationwide Childhood Immunization Initiative begins

The goal of the $58 million federal program, run by then-United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano Jr., was to get 90% of children under the age of 15 fully immunized by October 1979. A nationwide advertising campaign featuring “Star Wars” characters and celebrity athletes urged parents to get their children vaccinated against preventable diseases, such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, pertussis, and typhoid. Dr. Alan Hinman, former chief of the immunization program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the program successful. “We will meet the target for schoolage children and I think we will have clearly exceeded it when all information is in [by January 1, 1980],” said Hinman.



1980: All 50 states have laws requiring vaccines for children to attend public schools

1980: All 50 states have laws requiring vaccines for children to attend public schools

In many states, the mandates applied to children at all grade levels and those in licensed preschool settings. The required vaccines were either specified in the law itself or were chosen by the state health officer or state board of health. By the 1998-1999 school year, 46 states, with the exception of Louisiana, Michigan, South Carolina, and West Virginia, had vaccine requirements for all grade levels from kindergarten through 12th grade.

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1987: The Arizona Court of Appeals decides Maricopa County Health Department v. Harmon

1987: The Arizona Court of Appeals decides Maricopa County Health Department v. Harmon

Like Jacobson v. Massachusetts, this case upheld the ability of the government to exclude students from public schools if they failed to comply with vaccine mandates. The court rejected the argument that a child’s right to an education would supersede the state’s need to protect other students from an infectious disease because even if unconfirmed, the risk of infection was too likely.

[Pictured: A middle school student shows proof of immunization against the measles in April of 1989.]



2015: California becomes the first state to eliminate personal belief exemptions to vaccines for children in public and private schools

2015: California becomes the first state to eliminate personal belief exemptions to vaccines for children in public and private schools

In 2015, an outbreak of measles occurred among children in California who visited Disneyland and another theme park. Some parents were believed to be claiming a religious exemption to avoid getting their children vaccinated. Since 2015, five more states have eliminated vaccine exemptions in public schools: Connecticut, Mississippi, Maine, New York, and West Virginia.



2021: President Biden announces a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate

2021: President Biden announces a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate

The mandate includes vaccines for all federal workers, healthcare workers, and workers at companies with more than 100 employees. It could apply to more than 100 million Americans. In a speech announcing this sweeping initiative, President Joe Biden said vaccinated Americans are losing patience with those who refuse to get immunized, stating, “Your refusal has cost all of us.”

[Pictured: President Joe Biden speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus Oct. 14, 2021 in Washington D.C. Biden spoke about the coronavirus pandemic and encouraged states and businesses to support vaccine mandates to avoid a surge in cases of COVID-19.]

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1905: The US Supreme Court decides Jacobson v. Massachusetts

1905: The US Supreme Court decides Jacobson v. Massachusetts

The case upheld the right of individual states to mandate vaccination. In its decision, the Court maintained that a law requiring smallpox vaccination was a reasonable exercise of the state’s right to protect public health and safety and did not violate an individual’s civil and legal rights under the 14th Amendment.



1922: The US Supreme Court decides Zucht v. King

1922: The US Supreme Court decides Zucht v. King

In the case of Zucht v. King, the United States Supreme Court decided that unvaccinated students could be constitutionally excluded from attending schools in the district of San Antonio, Texas. The decision upheld the right of local governments to require vaccinations as a condition for attending public schools, ruling that unvaccinated individuals could be denied access to education. The court argued that public health trumps an individual’s right to education.



1944: The US Supreme Court decides Prince v. Massachusetts

1944: The US Supreme Court decides Prince v. Massachusetts

The court ruled that mandating childhood vaccines comes under the doctrine of parens patriae, in which the state exerts authority over child welfare. In their decision, the justices wrote that parental authority is not absolute and can be restricted if doing so is in the child’s best interest. They went on to say freedom of religion does not give parents the right to expose their community or their child to a communicable disease, or the child to the possibility of illness or death.

You may also like: The best streaming services for sports in 2021



1977: The nationwide Childhood Immunization Initiative begins

1977: The nationwide Childhood Immunization Initiative begins

The goal of the $58 million federal program, run by then-United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph A. Califano Jr., was to get 90% of children under the age of 15 fully immunized by October 1979. A nationwide advertising campaign featuring “Star Wars” characters and celebrity athletes urged parents to get their children vaccinated against preventable diseases, such as measles, mumps, rubella, polio, diphtheria, pertussis, and typhoid.

Dr. Alan Hinman, former chief of the immunization program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called the program successful. “We will meet the target for schoolage children and I think we will have clearly exceeded it when all information is in by the first of the year,” said Hinman, referring to Jan. 1, 1980.



1980: All 50 states have laws requiring vaccines for children to attend public schools

1980: All 50 states have laws requiring vaccines for children to attend public schools

In many states, the mandates applied to children at all grade levels and those in licensed preschool settings. The required vaccines were either specified in the law itself or were chosen by the state health officer or state board of health. By the 1998–1999 school year, 46 states, with the exception of Louisiana, Michigan, South Carolina, and West Virginia, had vaccine requirements for all grade levels from kindergarten through 12th grade.

You may also like: The best streaming services for football in 2021



1987: The Arizona Court of Appeals decides Maricopa County Health Department v. Harmon

1987: The Arizona Court of Appeals decides Maricopa County Health Department v. Harmon

Like Jacobson v. Massachusetts, this case upheld the ability of the government to exclude students from public schools if they failed to comply with vaccine mandates. The court rejected the argument that a child’s right to an education would supersede the state’s need to protect other students from an infectious disease because even if unconfirmed, the risk of infection was too likely.

[Pictured: A middle school student shows proof of immunization against measles in April of 1989.]



2015: California becomes the first state to eliminate personal belief exemptions to vaccines for children in public and private schools

2015: California becomes the first state to eliminate personal belief exemptions to vaccines for children in public and private schools

In 2015, an outbreak of measles occurred among children in California who visited Disneyland and another theme park. Some parents were believed to be claiming a religious exemption to avoid getting their children vaccinated. Since 2015, five more states have eliminated vaccine exemptions in public schools: Connecticut, Mississippi, Maine, New York, and West Virginia.



2021: President Biden announces a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate

2021: President Biden announces a sweeping COVID-19 vaccine mandate

The mandate includes vaccines for all federal workers, health care workers, and workers at companies with more than 100 employees. It could apply to more than 100 million Americans. In a speech announcing this sweeping initiative, President Joe Biden said vaccinated Americans are losing patience with those who refuse to get immunized, stating, “Your refusal has cost all of us.”

[Pictured: President Joe Biden speaks in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus Oct. 14, 2021, in Washington D.C. Biden spoke about the coronavirus pandemic and encouraged states and businesses to support vaccine mandates to avoid a surge in cases of COVID-19.]

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2022: Supreme Court blocks Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

2022: Supreme Court blocks Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

On Jan. 25, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down an order from President Joe Biden’s administration that would have imposed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate requiring businesses with over 100 employees to enforce a vaccine-or-test rule for its workers. In a landmark 6-3 opinion, however, the Court decided the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which issued the mandate via its emergency powers just weeks prior, had surpassed its authority.

“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” an unsigned opinion from the court read.

The landmark ruling came just months after Biden delivered the comprehensive COVID-19 mandate in September 2021.



2022: Supreme Court blocks Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

2022: Supreme Court blocks Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate

On Jan. 25, 2022, the Supreme Court of the United States struck down an order from President Joe Biden’s administration that would have imposed a COVID-19 vaccine mandate requiring businesses with over 100 employees to enforce a vaccine-or-test rule for its workers. In a landmark 6-3 opinion, however, the Court decided the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which issued the mandate via its emergency powers just weeks prior, had surpassed its authority.

“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” an unsigned opinion from the court read.

The landmark ruling came just months after Biden delivered the comprehensive COVID-19 mandate in September 2021.



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