Young children now eligible for COVID-19 vaccine

Children age 6 months to 5 years may now receive the COVID-19 vaccine in Oregon, after a flurry of weekend activity to approve Emergency Use Authorization for the vaccine. While children could begin to receive the vaccine as early as today (Monday, June 20, 2022), most providers won’t have vaccine in their office, so please contact your provider before taking your child to get a vaccine. Some providers will receive vaccine shipments today, while others won’t have their shipments until later this week, or even after that.

Approval of the vaccine followed the usual protocol, with an FDA committee finding that the benefits of either the two-dose Moderna COVID-19 vaccine series for infants age 6 months through 5 years, or the three-dose Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for infants and children 6 months through 4 years of age substantially outweigh any known or likely risks. Later, the full FDA endorsed the recommendation, and over the weekend, it was endorsed by the CDC, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, on which Oregon relies for such decisions.

Having your child vaccinated against COVID-19 will help keep them from becoming severely ill with the virus, and help keep them from spreading it to others.

Parents with questions are encouraged to talk to their child’s health care provider to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine and the importance of keeping children up-to-date with all the recommended vaccinations.

Some tips for parents of young children being vaccinated are here.

Severe side effects from COVID-19 vaccine are rare

Vaccine side effects, such as headaches, fevers and chills, are a sign our immune system is building protection against the virus we are being vaccinated against.

When we receive an mRNA vaccine (Moderna or Pfizer), the vaccine tells our cells to build copies of the spike protein found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. It’s impossible for these spike protein copies to infect us with COVID-19. But our body sees a protein it doesn’t recognize and launches an immune response to build antibodies. Even if those antibodies do not prevent infection, they, along with memory –B and –T cells, can respond immediately and reduce the length and severity of illness. People who are not vaccinated were 17 times more likely to die from COVID-19 in March than those who received a primary vaccine series plus a booster dose.

Severe adverse events from vaccination are rare.

Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction that may occur within minutes after receiving any vaccination. For COVID-19 vaccinations, it has occurred at a rate of about five cases per 1 million vaccinations.

Myocarditis is inflammation of the heart muscle, and pericarditis is inflammation of the outer lining of the heart. These reactions are rare and happen most often in teenagers or young adult males, usually within one week of receiving an mRNA COVID-19 vaccination (Pfizer or Moderna). CDC data show myocarditis occurs less often after a booster dose than the second dose in a primary vaccine series. Symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath and a fast-beating, fluttering or pounding heart. Most patients respond well to treatment of their symptoms and feel better within a few days.

Treatments available for COVID-19 infections

More than two years into the COVID-19 pandemic, there are now several effective treatments for the disease. Two of those treatments are Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, antiviral pills for non-hospitalized patients. They are available by prescription to people infected with the COVID-19 virus who have conditions that put them at risk for severe illness.

COVID-19 cases are increasing rapidly in Malheur County. If you or a loved one tests positive for COVID-19 and is at risk for serious disease, there are treatment options available. If you test positive, contact your provider and request a prescription for one of the antiviral medications being used to treat COVID-19.

There are no federal test-to-treat locations in Malheur County, so you will need to contact a medical provider to access medication.

Eligibility for Paxlovid and Molnupiravir:

People with certain health conditions like chronic lung disease or cancer are at higher risk for hospitalization or death from COVID-19 infection, as are people older than 65. Conditions that increase risk for severe COVID-19 include, but are not limited to:

  • Type 1 or 2 diabetes
  • Depression or schizophrenia
  • Chronic lung or heart diseases, including moderate to severe asthma
  • Cancer
  • Dementia or other neurological conditions
  • Down syndrome
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Age may be a factor that contributes to higher risk

Check out the full list of eligible conditions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Both Paxlovid and Molnupiravir must be taken within five days of symptom onset.

Because these medications are only available at certain pharmacies, ask your physician which pharmacy you should use to access the medication. Currently, dozens of pharmacies in Oregon, located in most counties, carry Paxlovid and Molnupiravir. Pharmacies should not ask for any fees associated with the medication, including dispensing fees.

Staying up to date with COVID-19 vaccines (getting primary series and booster) and following preventive measures for COVID-19 are important. This is especially important if you are older or have severe health conditions or more than one health condition, including those on this list. Learn more about how CDC develops COVID-19 vaccination recommendations. If you have a medical condition, learn more about Actions You Can Take.

Booster doses for 5-to-11-year-olds available Wednesday

Children age 5-11 are now eligible for a COVID-19 booster, which will be available Wednesday during the Malheur County Health Department’s Walk-in Wednesday clinic, which runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every Wednesday.

  • Children ages 5-11 who are not immunocompromised should get a booster dose at least five months after receiving the second dose in their primary vaccine series.
  • Children ages 5-11 who are immunocompromised and have received their third primary series dose, should get a booster dose at least three months after receiving the third dose in their primary vaccine series.

According to the Oregon Health Authority, 401 children age 5-11 in Malheur County have received two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, of 2,875 children of that age living in the county.

“Boosters are especially likely to benefit children who are at high risk for severe disease,” said Paul Cieslak, medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at OHA. “Boosters may also prevent children from spreading the virus to loved ones who are at high risk.”

Since the start of the pandemic, 15,000 children ages 5 through 11 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S., and more than 180 have died. Booster doses restore the immune system and extend protection from COVID-19 infection and severe illness.

“With more than 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected,” said CDC director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are safe and effective for children

The effectiveness of the two-dose series in preventing infection from the Omicron variant wanes over a few months. Boosters were shown to increase antibodies against Omicron in children 5-11 years of age to 36 times the level they had after the second dose.

“Most important, though, is to get that primary series into kids who haven’t had it yet,” said Cieslak.

Vaccination is the best way to protect children from severe illness and the long-term effects of COVID-19 that are still not fully understood.

If you have any questions about COVID-19 vaccines or boosters for children ages 5 through 11, please submit them here. The OHA is unable to answer every question, but will try to answer those that will inform a wide audience. Additionally, the FDA is expected to meet next month to review requests from Moderna and Pfizer to authorize their COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old. Feel free to submit questions about that as well.

Boosters for 5-11-year-olds approved

This week, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration amended the Emergency Use Authorization for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, authorizing a single booster dose for children 5 through 11 years old, whose last dose was at least five months prior. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Committee on Immunization Practices forwarded a recommendation to the CDC director, which was approved, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup reviewed the recommendation, Thursday evening.

The decision goes into effect today, May 20, and states:

  • Children ages 5 through 11 who are not immunocompromised should get a booster dose at least five months after receiving the second dose in their primary vaccine series.
  • Children ages 5 through 11 who are immunocompromised (and who have received a third primary series dose) should get a booster dose at least three months after receiving the third dose in their primary vaccine series.

Oregon Health Authority (OHA) estimates that there are more than 337,000 Oregon children ages 5 through 11. As of Thursday, 36.5% of children in this group had completed their vaccination series.

“Boosters are especially likely to benefit children who are at high risk for severe disease,” said Paul Cieslak, medical director for communicable diseases and immunizations at OHA. “Boosters may also prevent children from spreading the virus to loved ones who are at high risk.”

Since the start of the pandemic, 15,000 children ages 5 through 11 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 in the U.S., and more than 180 have died. Booster doses restore the immune system and extend protection from COVID-19 infection and severe illness.

“With over 18 million doses administered in this age group, we know that these vaccines are safe, and we must continue to increase the number of children who are protected,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky.  

Changes to second booster guidelines

The CDC this week also strengthened its guidelines for getting a second COVID-19 booster dose.

  • People age 12 and up who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should receive a second booster dose at least four months after their first booster dose.
  • Adults age 50 and up should receive a second booster dose at least four months after their first booster dose.
  • When the CDC initially approved a second booster dose for the above groups, the agency said people “may” choose to get a second booster dose. Now the agency says people in the above groups “should” get a second booster dose. The agency cited rising case numbers and a substantial increase in COVID-19-related hospitalizations for older Americans in this change.

COVID-19 vaccines and boosters are safe and effective for children

The effectiveness of the two-dose series in preventing infection by the Omicron variant wanes over a few months. Boosters were shown to increase antibodies against Omicron in children 5–11 years of age to 36 times the level they had after the second dose.

“Most important, though, is to get that primary series into kids who haven’t had it yet,” said Cieslak.

Vaccination is the best way to protect children from severe illness and the long-term effects of COVID-19 that are still not fully understood.

You can find a vaccine provider by visiting Get Vaccinated Oregon, the CDC’s Vaccines.gov site or by visiting your local pharmacy. You can also call 211, text ORCOVID to 898211 or email ORCOVID@211info.org.

If you have any questions about COVID-19 vaccines or boosters for children ages 5 through 11, please submit them here. We are unable to answer every question we receive, but we try to answer those that could inform a wide audience. Additionally, the FDA is expected to meet next month to review requests from Moderna and Pfizer to authorize their COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as 6 months old. Feel free to submit questions about that as well.

Contact your child’s pediatrician to discuss a booster dose, or go to a local pharmacy. People wanting booster doses for their 5-11-year-olds can also come to the Malheur County Health Department, 1108 SW 4th St., Ontario, Ore., any Wednesday between 9 a.m. and noon, and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., and walk-in to the vaccination clinic.

What are COVID-19 community levels?

The CDC‘s COVID-19 Community Levels tool, updated every week, uses multiple factors to rate the level of COVID-19 spread in your county and can help you make decisions about how to approach activities such as grocery shopping, masking, travel and more.

To learn more, read our recent story about how to use regional CDC and OHA data to help make those decisions: https://covidblog.oregon.gov/how-to-use-regional-covid…/

Second COVID-19 boosters now available

Second COVID-19 boosters are now available for people over 50 and certain immunocompromised individuals after federal authorization this week.

According to newly-adopted protocols, individuals who meet the criteria and received an initial booster dose at least four months ago can now get a second booster dose of either of the mRNA vaccines – made by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna – to increase their protection against severe disease from COVID-19. Adults who received a primary vaccine and booster dose of Johnson and Johnson’s vaccine at least four months ago can now receive a second booster dose using an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.

Centers for Disease Control and Food and Drug Administration experts say booster doses of the mRNA vaccines have been shown to increase immune response among individuals who completed primary doses of the shots as well as prevent severe disease among those infected with the virus. They also found no safety concerns linked with the second boosters.

Oregon Health Authority officials say there’s more than enough vaccine supply in Oregon to accommodate the groups eligible for second boosters, and new demand should help providers use up some of their excess vaccine stocks.

In Malheur County, 4,824 people, or 44.1% of those eligible, received their first booster dose, according to OHA data. Of those, 59.8%, or 3,523 are over 50, and eligible for their second booster four months after their first.

OHA strongly encourages everyone eligible in Oregon to get their primary doses of the COVID-19 vaccines followed by a booster shot. Those most at risk for the virus are people who have not yet received a primary series of the vaccines.

Vaccines are offered every Wednesday at the Malheur County Health Department, 1108 SW 4th St., in Ontario, Oregon, from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on a walk-in basis. Call 541-889-7279 for more information.

Vaccine, booster and travel guidance for people vaccinated against COVID-19 outside of the United States

For many who travel to and from the United States, whether they are seasonal migrant workers or frequent business flyers, entering the country isn’t as straight forward as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of Homeland Security has issued vaccination requirements for these groups of people* to enter the U.S., whether they enter by plane, boat or across a land border.

This requirement has posed particular difficulties for migrant agriculture workers who must be vaccinated for their first day on the job but don’t always know what the requirements are, according to Deisy Flores, community health worker and field navigator for the community-based organization Mano a Mano.

“They are often not informed of which vaccines will be accepted in the United States, so when they arrive here, many of them realize that the vaccine they got is not accepted, and they are asked to be vaccinated again with the U.S.-approved vaccines,” said Flores. In addition, vaccines are not as available in some countries, and workers are “surprised to see how fast and easy you can get a vaccine” in Oregon.

So what vaccines can someone receive elsewhere in order to enter the U.S., whether for work or pleasure?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) accepts any vaccine received outside the U.S. that has been listed for emergency use by the World Health Organization, as well as one vaccine recently authorized by Canada’s drug regulator, Health Canada. These include:

  • Johnson & Johnson (Janssen)**
  • Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty)
  • Moderna
  • AstraZeneca
  • Covaxin
  • Covishield
  • BIBP/Sinopharm
  • Sinovac
  • Noravax/Covovax
  • Medicago/Covifenz (Canada)

**Single-dose vaccine (the others are two-dose vaccines)

To enter the United States, non-U.S. citizens and others must be fully vaccinated with the primary series of one of the above vaccines accepted by the CDC. A booster dose is not required for entry into the U.S.

Fully vaccinated means it’s been:

  • 14 days since your dose of an accepted single-dose primary vaccine
  • 14 days since your second dose of an accepted two-dose primary vaccine series
  • 14 days since you received two doses of any “mix-and-match” combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines administered at least 17 days apart.

If you don’t meet these requirements, you are not considered fully vaccinated and cannot enter the United States.

For anyone in the U.S. who initially received some vaccinations outside of the country, understanding what additional doses or boosters you are recommended to receive can be difficult. Check out this two-page infographic below for guidance.

It’s National Influenza Vaccination Week

National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 5-11, is a call to all Americans 6 months and older to get their annual flu vaccine if they have not already. Flu remains a significant public health concern, and this week will serve to remind people that there is still time to get a flu vaccine—the only vaccine that protects against flu—to prevent flu illness and potentially serious complications.

We get it to help #fightflu

What is the difference between COVID-19 and Influenza (flu)?

Influenza (flu) and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. COVID-19 is caused by infection with a coronavirus first identified in 2019, and flu is caused by infection with influenza viruses.

Because some of the symptoms of flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory illnesses are similar, the difference between them cannot be made based on symptoms alone. Testing is needed to tell what the illness is and to confirm a diagnosis. People can be infected with both flu and the virus that causes COVID-19 at the same time and have symptoms of both influenza and COVID-19.

More information about can be found here.

The Malheur County Health Department will offer flu vaccines to people on a walk-in basis Wednesday, Dec. 15 and Wednesday, Dec. 29, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the clinic, 1108 SW 4th St., in Ontario, or by appointment. Call 541-889-7279 to schedule an appointment.

Source: CDC.gov

FDA, CDC, authorize pediatric COVID-19 doses

Monday, Nov. 1, the FDA authorized use of pediatric doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5-11. That decision was confirmed by a unanimous CDC panel on Tuesday, and again Tuesday evening by the Western States Scientific Safety Workgroup, which confirmed the safety and efficacy of the vaccine for young children. Children ages 5 and older should be vaccinated against COVID-19, but may still have to wait a few days, as shipments of pediatric doses have not yet arrived in Malheur County. In a meeting today, Oregon Health Authority officials reported that the doses should arrive early next week, in time for the next walk-in vaccine clinic at the Malheur County Health Department on Wednesday, Nov. 10, from 1-6 p.m.

Vaccines may also be available at your healthcare provider or pharmacy. We recommend calling first to ensure they have the vaccine in stock and ask if an appointment is needed. Find the list of vaccine providers in the county at malheurhealth.org/covid-19-vaccine. Additionally, vaccine clinics are scheduled at Four Rivers Cultural Center, 676 SW 5th Ave., on Saturday, Nov. 13 and Friday, Dec. 3, hosted by the Oregon Health Authority. Drive-through vaccination clinics at the Ontario Airport Firehouse, 581 SW 33rd St. are scheduled for Saturdays, Nov. 20 and Dec. 11, hosted by Malheur County. Find more information and share the flyers here.

“Vaccination is the single most important and powerful public health intervention in human history. More lives have been saved and more misery averted through vaccination than anything we have ever done,” said Malheur County Health Department Director Sarah Poe. “Along with the many childhood vaccines that prevent disease, we know the benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine outweigh the risks and protect our community, keep our kids in school, and prevent outbreaks.”