By Sherri Kolade
With Pfizer’s children’s vaccine available for emergency use since early November, nearly 30 million children in the country are now eligible for the vaccine — and some have already stood in line to get the jab.
Pfizer reported a 90.7 percent effectiveness rate for its one-third dose for kids under 12 who previously couldn’t receive the vaccine.
Experts are hoping the new eligibility and availability of the vaccine will continue to drive down new cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, MIS-C (inflammatory syndromes) and long-term complications, such as “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for months, according to a press release. The spread of the Delta variant resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases in children throughout the summer. During six weeks in late June to mid-August, COVID-19 hospitalizations among children and adolescents increased significantly. Like what was seen in adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 5-11 years. In clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild, self-limiting and like those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm.
Dr. James Grant, senior vice president and chief medical officer for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, told the Michigan Chronicle that because side effects from the vaccine are so minor, recovery days from school are generally not necessary, but if one’s child is experiencing extreme fatigue or a fever after receiving the vaccine, it’s best to keep your child at home for the day.
He added that some possible side effects of the vaccine including myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) have been reported in a very small number of teenagers and young adults after receiving the vaccine.
“In most cases, symptoms begin within a few days after receiving the vaccine,” Grant said. “There are not any more cases than would be expected in the population under regular circumstances, and it is not clear if the cases are caused by the vaccine. Parents should pay close attention to their children after they receive the vaccine and contact their physician if they have any concerns with their child’s health status or recovery from the vaccine.”
A Defining Moment
Pastor Terrence L. Johnson at Second Missionary Baptist Church of Monroe has a five- and seven-year-old who already received their COVID-19 vaccine.
“For me, it was when I got a chance to sit in on a few town halls with physicians, epidemiologists … [who] addressed questions for our congregation,” he said, adding that lead COVID-19 vaccine researcher Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett (a Black woman), Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist also put his mind at ease.
“That was one of the defining moments,” he said of deciding when to have his children vaccinated. “Going through that that really helped me with my thought process. … I was put at ease to [know] that a sister was working on the vaccine.”
According to https://www.usnews.com, over 360,000 kids under the age of 12 are at least partially vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus, per data from the Centers for Disease Control.
“I think for us we would rather have them vaccinated against COVID-19 because we don’t trust other people, and the biggest thing is this time around the COVID virus has impacted their age demographic,” he added.
“Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against the virus that causes COVID-19,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control, said in a press release. “We know millions of parents are eager to get their children vaccinated and with this decision, we now have recommended that about 28 million children receive a COVID-19 vaccine. As a mom, I encourage parents with questions to talk to their pediatrician, school nurse or local pharmacist to learn more about the vaccine and the importance of getting their children vaccinated.”
Childcare for All
On the heels of the expanded vaccine eligibility for children, more working parents might opt to send their children back to daycare, an industry that has also been touched by the pandemic.
“Today there are still over 200,000 women who haven’t returned to the workforce. Access to affordable childcare that meets their needs is a huge reason why. Increasing access to state childcare support helps women continue their economic recovery and strengthens Michigan families,” said Muna Jondy, chair of the Michigan Women’s Commission, in a press release.
According to the Associated Press, Child Care Aware estimates 9 percent of licensed childcare programs have permanently closed since the pandemic began, based on its tally of nearly 16,000 shuttered centers and in-home daycares in 37 states between December 2019 and March 2021.
To bridge this gap, Gov. Whitmer recently announced the expansion of free or low-cost childcare to 105,000 more kids through an expanded income eligibility criteria to include more working families, according to a press release. Families of four earning up to $49,000 will be eligible for free or low-cost childcare under new criteria, boosting Michigan’s economic momentum by helping parents go back to work knowing that their kids are cared for.
“We need to continue working hard to drive down costs for families and expand access to high-quality, affordable childcare so parents can go to work knowing that their kids are safe and learning,” Whitmer said. “I was proud to put childcare first in the bipartisan budget I signed in September. Together, we lowered costs for working families by expanding low or no-cost care to 105,000 kids and providing grants to improve childcare programs and empower childcare professionals. Countless working parents rely on childcare, and we must continue expanding high-quality care to help every working family thrive. With this investment, we can ensure kids and working families succeed as we continue ushering in a new era of prosperity for our communities.”
In addition to expanding eligibility, beginning immediately, family contributions (the amount parents receiving state childcare support are required to pay toward the cost of care) are waived until September 30, 2022. This lifts some of the financial burdens on the nearly 40,000 families currently receiving state childcare support.
“Workforce shortages have become the top concern among most small business owners. Providing support to Michigan families for quality childcare will make it possible for more parents to reenter and stay in the workforce,” said Brian Calley, president of the Small Business Association of Michigan. “This bipartisan initiative to remove barriers to employment will be a game-changer for many Michigan families.”
Eligible families must apply to receive childcare support through the Child Development & Care Program, commonly called the childcare subsidy. Families must be income-eligible, have a child under age 12 and have an eligible need, such as working or going to school, to qualify.
Earlier in November, Whitmer also announced that applications are now open for a bipartisan $350 million grant program to support over 8,000 childcare businesses and bonuses for childcare professionals through the Child Care Stabilization Grant. Licensed childcare providers are eligible to apply and should visit Michigan.gov/childcare. Childcare professionals will be awarded bonuses directly from their employer and do not need to apply.
Johnson said that the city of Monroe has major disparities between the Black and white populations, and the community (about 40 minutes outside of Detroit) is divided by railroad tracks. Black people, who primarily stay on the east side of Monroe don’t have all the access they need to find childcare services available, or the cost is too high. He said that Whitmer’s financial initiatives in the childcare industry, and for parents, could help lighten the load.
“Low-cost childcare in this season is definitely needed right now,” he said.
Visit NewMiBridges.Michigan.gov to apply today.
Need help finding childcare? Visit GreatStarttoQuality.org to find care that meets your needs.
Black Information Network contributed to this report.