Breanna Reeves |
Riverside County is experiencing a “somewhat stable” COVID-19 case rate, according to Dr. Geoffrey Leung, Riverside University Health System (RUHS) Public Health Officer. During the county’s weekly health update, Dr. Leung and Dr. Christopher Dael, Medical Director of Children’s Medical Services for RUHS Public Health answered questions from the public regarding COVID.
“As of right now we would say that our cases and our hospitalization rates have sort of leveled off and look somewhat stable,” said Dr. Leung. “They haven’t been changing dramatically one way or the other, but it does mean we’re still seeing new cases every day, and that we continue to have opportunities to do a better job to protect our community.”
Nearly a month has passed since Riverside County began disseminating COVID vaccines for children after the Federal and Drug Administration approved the Pfizer dosage for children between the ages of five and 11.
Although data regarding vaccination rates among the newly approved age group isn’t quite readily available, Dr. Dael explained that families in the county are interested in getting their children vaccinated.
“But what we are seeing is that families are definitely interested, and we’re seeing vaccination rates in Riverside County that we’re happy about, that indicate that families are definitely interested in making sure that their five to 11 year olds are protected,” Dr. Dael explained during an interview with Black Voice News. “And that protection can maybe help other members of the family or those that might be at risk.”
While vaccine hesitancy exists among some parents regarding potential side effects, other parents are eager to get their children vaccinated. More than 15,000 children ages five to 11 are partially vaccinated in Riverside County, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Akasha Hendrix is the mother of two children, a seven-year-old daughter, and a four-year-old son, both who attend schools in Riverside. While her son isn’t eligible for the vaccine yet, Hendrix’s daughter has already received her first dose.
“My thoughts (on the children’s COVID vaccine) are sign me up. I was calling my doctor right away to see when my daughter could get hers,” said Hendrix. “My son’s not old enough. He’s four. But I was delighted to hear that they were giving vaccines to the five to 11 age group.”
According to a statement released in November by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vaccine trials showed that the vaccination was 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among five to 11 year olds. The CDC noted that side effects were mild, and the most common effect was a sore arm.
“I would strongly recommend, like the CDC recommends, that families immunize their kids five to 11,” said Dr. Dael. “We know that children can definitely become ill with COVID and that they can be infected at the same rates as adults.”
COVID-19 and Children
During the week of November 25, the American Academy of Pediatrics reported nearly 132,000 child cases were reported, adding to the 6.9 million children who have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
“Additionally, we know that children can be an important vector for transmitting the disease to other members of the family, like grandma and grandpa can be potentially infected, other vulnerable members of the family or friends who have immune problems,” Dr. Dael further explained. “So, it’s really important overall that we protect our kids for their own health and also for the health of their loved ones who might be more at risk.”
It is too soon to tell if children will also be required to receive booster shots for COVID-19 like adults. Children have different immune responses than adults and could be fine with just two doses, Dr. Dael noted.
Although Hendrix was eager to get her daughter vaccinated, she explained that when her daughter was younger, she was hesitant about vaccines, but as her daughter got older, Hendrix did her own research and weighed the pros and cons of vaccinations.
“I would just say younger kids, they’re more curious, they’re less fearful. They’re not as fearful and as cautious as perhaps an adult might be,” said Hendrix. “So, anything that you can do to just give your kids an extra layer of protection, especially with the new variants popping up here and there. I think it’s good to get them any kind of extra protection that you can.”