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Parents weigh decisions as COVID vaccine doses for kids reach Nevada

Updated November 3, 2021 - 9:50 pm

Pharmacies, clinics and doctor’s offices in Southern Nevada were gearing up Wednesday to give the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine to kids as young as 5, as some parents continued to weigh whether to get their children inoculated.

Pharmacies said they would begin administering shots to those ages 5 to 11 as soon as this weekend, while the Southern Nevada Health District said its main public health center would begin offering the shots next week.

UNLV Medicine, the medical practice of the Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine, has ordered the lower-dose vaccine for youngsters and expects to begin to giving the shots later this month, said Dr. Evelyn Montalvo Stanton, chair of the Department of Pediatrics.

While some parents are eager to get their children vaccinated as a step toward greater normalcy, others are voicing concerns about potential side effects and taking a wait-and-see approach.

“I don’t see them (most parents) rushing and knocking on the door right away to get the vaccine,” said Montalvo Stanton, a pediatric pulmonologist.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention late Tuesday gave the final approval needed to begin administering the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the first COVID-19 shot to be approved in the U.S. for this age group. The shot is one-third the dose being given to teens and adults.

Some parents have questions

Although U.S. health authorities and doctors’ groups are urging parents to get their kids vaccinated, parents still have questions.

“There’s still some hesitancy in some families who are dubious about vaccines,” Montalvo Stanton said. “There are parents that are well informed that perhaps might have a medical background, and the parents that are not well informed, or reading a lot of the media, that are still worried about the vaccine.”

Health authorities are encouraging parents to talk with a trusted health care provider about their concerns. That’s what Jeffrey Balcom, whose son is a fourth grader at Bonner Elementary School, said he and his wife plan to do.

“The tipping point for us is we’re going to talk to his pediatrician … and we’re going to make an informed decision from there,” said Balcom, a controller at a nonprofit, who is leaning toward getting his son vaccinated.

“I’m not a scientist. I’m not a doctor. I’m not a virologist, an epidemiologist. I’m going to put my trust in my own personal experience and my son’s pediatrician. Full stop. Period. End of story,” he said. “Anything beyond that — pictures on the internet, anecdotal stories from people on Twitter” won’t factor into the decision.

Balcom said that he, his wife and 13-year-old daughter all got vaccinated with only minor side effects. Despite being vaccinated, Balcom, who is 46 with underlying health conditions, contracted a milder breakthrough case of COVID-19. He credits the vaccine with keeping the disease in check.

But he wants to talk with their pediatrician about his son’s unique health history and the odds of him experiencing myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, a rare side effect of the vaccine that also is a symptom of COVID-19.

Montalvo Stanton said that myocarditis as a potential vaccine side effect is a frequent concern among parents.

“The numbers are so low nationwide that we have to look at the benefits of the vaccine outweighing the risk from developing (COVID-19) and being in the ICU,” she said.

The Food and Drug Administration assessed 3,100 children in determining that the vaccine was safe. The youngsters experienced similar or fewer temporary reactions — such as a sore arm, fever or achiness — than teens experienced. But the study wasn’t large enough to detect any extremely rare side effects such as the heart inflammation that occasionally occurs after the second full-strength dose, mostly in young men and teen boys.

A recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that most parents won’t rush to get the shot. About 25 percent of parents polled in October said they would get their children vaccinated “right away.” The remainder were roughly split between those who said they will wait to see how the vaccine performs and those who said they “definitely” won’t have their children vaccinated.

Family relies on likely immunity

Danica Duran, who teaches 10th grade honors English at Legacy High School in Las Vegas, has no plans to get any of her three sons vaccinated. She and her baby both contracted COVID-19 and experienced mild symptoms. Her two older sons, ages 5 and 12, also had symptoms but weren’t tested.

“I would never subject my child to an unknown potential life-threatening complications when they’ve already had it and survived,” said Duran, 36, who said that her family believes in natural immunity from prior exposure, “medical autonomy, and effective treatment options if and when necessary.”

She believes that the risk from the disease has been exaggerated. She said she gets her information from multiple sources and tries “to absorb all types of arguments in order to create a basis for what is right for me and my family.”

In the U.S., about 1.9 million children ages 5 to 11 have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to federal health authorities. Some 8,300 have been hospitalized, about one-third needed intensive care, and at least 94 deaths have been verified.

In Clark County, 37,006 COVID-19 cases have been reported in children ages 5 to 17, according to the Southern Nevada Health District.

“Children with COVID-19 can develop severe symptoms that result in hospitalizations, death, MIS-C” — a serious condition that results in inflammation of organs — “and long-term complications,” the health district said in a news release.

The health district has reported 92 cases of MIS-C — multisystem inflammatory syndrome —among Clark County children. There have been 266 COVID-19 hospitalizations of children ages 5 to 17 and four deaths.

Vaccination can help to protect those who are too young to receive the vaccine, the district said. In Clark County, there have been 7,468 cases of COVID-19 reported in children ages 4 or younger, 149 hospitalizations and one death.

State receives initial allocation

Nevada has received an initial allocation of 95,100 doses of the lower-dose children’s vaccine, enough for about one-third of children ages 5 to 11 in the state to receive one dose, according to the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services.

Currently, 233 providers across Nevada are enrolled with the state to administer COVID-19 vaccine. Pharmacies receive additional allocations directly from the CDC.

The state expects allotments to be sufficient to ensure children can receive their second doses three weeks later while continuing to give unvaccinated children their first doses.

The Southern Nevada Health District will begin administering Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine on Nov. 10 at its main public health center at 280 S. Decatur. Pediatric vaccine will be available on a walk-in basis until the district’s appointment system is updated.

Other district sites will begin to provide the vaccine soon. Information on availability will be posted on the website at www.SNHD.info/covid-vaccine.

Walgreens said that it planned to start kids’ vaccinations Saturday and that parents could sign up online or by calling 1-800-Walgreens. CVS said it was accepting appointments online and by phone at select pharmacies starting Sunday.

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0336. Follow @MaryHynes1 on Twitter. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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