LECOM Health prepares to vaccinate young children against COVID-19
LECOM Health will soon provide COVID vaccine to children under 5, said Jaime Babiak, director of operations for its Institute for Successful Aging.
David Bruce, Erie Times-News
Northwestern Pennsylvania pediatricians and family physicians will soon vaccinate children as young as 6 months old against COVID-19.
Special, smaller doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines for children between 6 months and 5 years of age has been shipped to Erie medical providers. Saint Vincent Hospital physicians expected to start giving doses Thursday, while UPMC Hamot and LECOM Health physicians planned to begin early next week.
“We can’t encourage parents enough to get their children vaccinated,” said Charlotte Berringer, R.N., director of community health services for the Erie County Department of Health.
The federal government’s long-awaited approval of a vaccine for young children comes as COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are declining in northwestern Pennsylvania, and young children are generally suffering mild symptoms or none at all when infected.
Still, there are good reasons to vaccinate children under 5, said Christopher Clark, D.O., Saint Vincent president and a family physician. One reason is that the omicron variants have led to an increased number of pediatric hospital admissions nationwide.
“Many of us providers are parents ourselves,” Clark said. “We don’t want our kids to get sick … plus there is the added benefit of preventing community spread and protecting the older people who come in contact with our children.”
Older people are still dying from COVID-19. The last nine COVID-19 deaths in Erie County have all been people 70 and older, and most of them were vaccinated, according to the county health department.
Vaccinating young children is one way of reducing the risk of illness and death to their grandparents, aunts and uncles, especially during the summer when families tend to gather for parties and reunions, Berringer said.
“If a young child sees their grandparent, they are going to want to hug them and sit on their lap,” Berringer said. “And that’s a good thing. But we want them to be able to do those things safely.”
Pfizer’s vaccine for kids younger than 5 is one-tenth of the adult dose. Three shots are needed: The first two 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 under 6.
Vaccine side effects were mostly minor and included fever and fatigue.
“We have seen no safety concerns with the vaccine among patients in this age group,” said Jason Chenault, Hamot’s director of emergency, hospitalist and critical care services. “The only major difference is these younger children get three doses of the Pfizer vaccine instead of two doses.”
The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose regiment for young children.
Saint Vincent and Hamot will provide vaccine at its medical offices, while Hamot will also offer it at the health system’s urgent-care centers. LECOM Health will provide vaccine at its medical offices and at the LECOM Center for Health & Aging, 3910 Schaper Ave., where the health system conducts a COVID-19 vaccine clinic.
“Here at the clinic, we are able to offer all different vaccines for all different ages,” said Jaime Babiak, a pharmacist and director of operations for the LECOM Institute for Successful Aging. “If mom is coming in for a booster or there is an older child that needs any part of their vaccination series, we can do all of that at one time.”
To schedule an appointment, contact your child’s pediatrician or family doctor, or visit the following sites:
- LECOM Health: https://lecomisaging.com/covid-19-vaccine-testing-information
- Saint Vincent: Go through https://mychart.ahn.org
- UPMC Hamot: https://vaccine.upmc.com
The Associated Press contributed to this article.