Independence Board of Health encourages vaccines for children

Mike Genet

The Independence Advisory Board of Health “strongly encourages” parents to talk with their pediatrician or health-care provider and to get their children ages 5 and older vaccinated against COVID-19. 

In a memo to the City Council, the board notes that the American Academy of Pediatrics and, locally, Children's Mercy Hospital both strongly recommend vaccinations for such children, and that pediatric vaccines are available at doctor offices, pharmacies, Children's Mercy and some local health departments. As federal regulators recently approved the Pfizer vaccine for children age 5 to 11, the memo reads, getting young children vaccinated “will help limit the spread of the disease, protect our children and help the community as a whole.” 

“As the holidays approach and we see fewer masks in the community,” the memo ends, “it places even more importance upon vaccinations to protect the community by increasing the percentage of the population with improved immune responses.”  

Board member Dr. Terry Morris, a retired obstetrician, said the board believed it was an important message to send out, given the recent vaccine approval for children, the slow rise in vaccine uptake among younger populations and the population's weariness of the pandemic. 

“COVID fatigue is so rampant that everyone is so done with it,” Morris said, “but case rates are up the last two weeks; we're seeing more and more people contract covid. 

“It's good for parents to sit down with pediatrician and have a conversation about it,” Morris said, “because there's so much misinformation out there.” 

Morris said while data has shown that children who contract COVID-19 have notably lower rates of serious illness and death than older population groups, children can just as easily spread the virus to a more vulnerable population.  

“That's what's concerning,” he said. “We're wanting to keep those kids from spreading it, and even though (the death rate) is small, one is too many.” 

Morris pointed out that Children's Mercy participated in clinical trials for pediatric vaccines. Angela Myers, an infectious disease doctor with the hospital, noted that any side effects generally mirrored what the general population experienced and cleared up within a few days. The history of vaccines in the United States shows that adverse side effects from vaccines don't show up after several weeks.  

“We don't see adverse effects with vaccines happening years down the road,” Myers said during a virtual town hall hosted by her hospital. “That just doesn't happen with vaccines.” 

“If you're vaccinated, you're much less likely to be infected and to spread the virus. If you're not infected, you can't spread it.” 

Myers said there have been rare, mild cases of myocarditis (heart inflammation) in children and teenagers after vaccination, but they quickly resolved themselves and have happened far less than myocarditis from actual COVID-19 infection. Vaccines have also shown no effect with fertility, she said. 

With mask mandates expired or expiring, vaccines can also help against spread in schools, Ryan Northrup, a primary care clinic doctor, said during the Children's Mercy town hall.  

“The more children that we can vaccinated, the better chance we have at reducing spread in our communities and in our child's school,” he said, “and that is what's going to keep your child in school.”