Yesterday, after the CDC advisory panel recommended vaccines for children ages 5 to 11, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky gave the official okay for kids to get vaccinated. So how does this decision affect us locally?

Doctor Marissa Michel, a pediatric specialist for the Grand River Medical Group was nice enough to drop by and fill us in on what we should know and then answer a few questions from our listeners.

I first asked her about her credentials as a doctor.

Dr. Michel grew up in Dubuque and attended medical school at the University of Iowa where she had her pediatric residency. She's been with the Grand River Medical Group for the last three years.

Here are a few of the questions I asked her, and how she answered.

Is it safe?

"It's a great question. With all medical treatments, the question we ask is "do the benefits outweigh the risk." The Pfizer vaccine trial for kids showed that their two vaccine series, very similar to their adult series, was over 90 percent effective against symptomatic infection and there were no adverse events of special interest. That means no cases of anaphylaxis, no cases of myocarditis or pericarditis during the trials."

She continued,

"One cool thing is the dose that was approved is actually a third of the dose that was given to people that were 12 years old and older."

I asked Dr. Michel what actually differentiates an adult dose from a pediatric dose?

"Kids aren't just mini-adults. The kid's immune systems are very robust and they respond really well to vaccines. In early-phase clinical trials, they looked at different dosing of the vaccine itself and found kids respond just as well to the ten-microgram dose as they did to the thirty-microgram dose. Why not do a lower dose, have fewer side-effects, and have just as good of an immune response."

I told the doctor that I understand side effects are a big concern for a lot of parents, but a bigger concern I hear from people is their fear of not knowing what is actually being used in the vaccine and the possible long-term side effects for a child who gets it.

"In the clinical trial for the 5 to 11-year-old group, the most common thing reported was arm pain at the injection site, fatigue, and headaches. Other than that, there is nothing physiologically about the vaccine that would cause doctors to anticipate any long-term effects from it. It's actually expressed from the body within 72 hours."

So similar to the effects of a flu shot?

"Yes."

So exactly what kind of protection will a child get if they receive this vaccine?

"It's going to help to prevent systematic infection. If your child were to be exposed and get Covid-19, they would experience less severe symptoms and would be shedding the virus for a shorter period of time."

I asked Dr. Michel what people should do if they would like to line up a vaccine for their children. She said the Grand River Medical Group is standing by for direction from the CDC Director and the Iowa Department of Public Health who will be issuing guidance regarding shots for kids.

She expects that by early next week they will be vaccinating kids in the clinic for ages 5 to 11. Online scheduling will be available. You can also check with local pharmacies who may also be giving out the shots. Of course, you can simply call your child's primary care provider they will tell you the best course of action.

I also told the doctor that since the vaccines have been out for adults, many people have gotten very lax on their habits of wearing masks. Is it still important?

"We know that masks help the most for someone shedding the virus, so if you are symptomatic you need to be wearing a mask for it to help. It's less helpful for people wearing the mask that aren't affected. If everyone would put their mask back on, it would be of great benefit to everyone."

What about getting a flu shot and a vaccine? Dr. Michel says "do it!" You can get them both at the same time if you want!

If you'd like to reach out to learn more about vaccines, here's a link to the Grand River Medical Group WEBSITE.

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Vaccinations for COVID-19 began being administered in the U.S. on Dec. 14, 2020. The quick rollout came a little more than a year after the virus was first identified in November 2019. The impressive speed with which vaccines were developed has also left a lot of people with a lot of questions. The questions range from the practical—how will I get vaccinated?—to the scientific—how do these vaccines even work?

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