Just For Kids: Niswonger Children’s Hospital leaders answer questions about COVID-19 vaccines for kids

Local Coronavirus Coverage

JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Pediatric health leaders sat with Daytime Tri-Cities’ Amy Lynn to discuss the COVID-19 vaccine for children.

Viewers were given the opportunity Tuesday to call-in questions and have them answered by the experts.

Niswonger Children’s Network CEO Lisa Carter was accompanied by Dr. Heather Champney, who works in pediatric emergency medicine at Niswonger Children’s Hospital.

Both weighed in on the COVID-19 vaccine for children and what parents and guardians should know.

Champney stressed that as the colder weather becomes more persistent and winter nears, more activities and gatherings have been moved indoors. She noted that the hospital system has seen an increase in COVID-19 infection.

“Unfortunately, over the past two weeks, we are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases across the board,” she said. “Today, as a health system, we had over 200 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 and that has increased over the past several weeks.”

With pediatric patients, the health experts say they saw an increase of typical winter ailments in children throughout the past summer.

News Channel 11 compiled a list of questions and answers from the call-in show. The complete show is available for watching at the top.

Q. What are we seeing in our area regarding the COVID-19 vaccine for children? Why is it important for those 5 years and up?

Champney: We know that vaccines in general work. They work to help us protect our children and protect ourselves from all these communicable diseases. Vaccines in general work as a primer of the pump, so to speak, for your immune system. It tells your system, “Here is this [sickness] as it presents itself, and here’s how you can fight it.” That pump is primed when you’re vaccinated against a variety of illnesses. Being able to vaccinate our younger, more vulnerable population from this terrible disease is incredible. It gives us another tool in our belt to combat this pandemic.

Q. What are we seeing in our area regarding the COVID-19 vaccines in general?

Carter: Unfortunately, our area of the state is lagging as far as the statewide numbers, and our state in general is behind nationwide numbers. We haven’t reached 50% vaccination rate in this area. We are hovering in the mid-40 percent overall for the population. We know that contributes to what we’re seeing in the health systems with increased hospitalizations and increased admissions, especially related to COVID-19.

Q. What’s your advice to parents who remain on the fence regarding the COVID-19 vaccine and children?

Champney: First of all, your primary care provider is the best source to go to for information. That being said, I 100% endorse getting the vaccine. All of my children have it. Two of them are younger, so they have just now been able to complete that vaccination series. In terms of safety, vaccines have been researched for years — for decades. There’s tons and tons of data that confirm vaccines work, and they’re safe. That goes for this vaccine as well.

Q. What do we know about the manufacturers of the COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved for younger children?

Champney: Right now, there are three vaccines that are available, and they have different age ranges that they’re approved for. There’s a Johnson & Johnson vaccine that is a single dose, and that is approved for adults. Moderna has a vaccine that is currently for adults and is in the process of getting approval for use in adolescents and younger populations. Then, there’s the Pfizer Bio-n-Tech. That’s the vaccine we’re talking about tonight. That’s the first one that had emergency use authorization for adolescents and now for those 5 through 11. The dose for the 5 to 11 year olds is about a third of that given to adolescents and adult populations. In those studies, it showed that third of a dose was just as much of an immune booster as the adult dose. These pediatric patients mounted quite a response from that dose. They are safe; they are effective; they are a smaller dose based on age.

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