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COVID 19 Information
Anyone with cough, fever, or other COVID symptoms will be asked to wear a mask and wait outside or in their car and will be seen in our isolated exam room.
COVID 19 testing can be done in our office. If your child needs to be seen by a doctor and there are concerns about COVID 19, a rapid test will be administered. Results will be available within 15 minutes. If your child does not need to be seen by a doctor and you would like to have them tested for COVID 19, a saliva* or nasal swab can be done at our office. Results are available within 48 hours. *Saliva tests are only available for those over the age of 6.
Please call the office to schedule any type of testing.
May 11, 2021
I am excited that we are on the threshold of the COVID-19 vaccine being approved to be given in children between 12-15 years of age. I thought it would be good to write my thoughts about the vaccine and recommendations as you consider giving this to yourself and your children.
The Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines use an exciting technology for manufacturing vaccines, called mRNA. The vaccine contains particles filled with this material that then fuse with the muscle cells of our body (where the vaccine is injected), releasing this material into the outer part of the cell, called the cytoplasm. It does not make it into the nucleus of our cell, where our own genetic material is kept. In the cytoplasm, structures called ribosomes that use the mRNA to make a protein, which is transferred to the cell surface. This protein, called the Spike Protein, is the most common protein in the outer membrane of the SARS-Cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Our immune system recognizes the Spike Protein and forms an antibody response to it, thus protecting us when we are exposed to the real SARS-Cov-2.
Here is a link to an excellent video describing this in more detail:
The Johnson and Johnson vaccine uses a slightly different technology, with the same ultimate result. All these vaccines are remarkably effective in preventing disease caused by Sars-Cov-2, up to 95%, which is amazing. This mRNA technology has been around for decades and is not new. I expect that it will be commonly used in vaccines developed in the future because it is so effective. In addition, since it does not require growing the virus, as many other vaccine processes do, it can be manufactured very quickly and in large amounts.
These vaccines are very safe. Common side effects of the vaccines include fever/chills, body aches, headaches, fatigue, and nausea. These are generally short-lived (about 1-2 days) and resolve quickly. Many of you heard about the pausing in giving the Johnson and Johnson vaccine recently so that investigations could be completed regarding reports of blood clots in some recipients. These occurred in just under 1 in one million doses. After investigating the reports, it was determined that with this risk being so low, the benefits to vaccination far outweigh the risks, and so it was reinstated. Another widespread concern regarding these vaccines is that they can affect fertility. There is currently no evidence this is the case.
Many people have expressed concerns that these vaccines were rushed through the process of approval and that corners may have been cut in order to get them out as soon as possible. All drugs and vaccines undergo three phases of research in which safety, correct dosing, and efficacy (proving it works) must be demonstrated. For the COVID vaccines, these studies were conducted in thousands of volunteers. Thereafter the data undergoes extensive review by the FDA prior to being approved. Studies continue after drugs and vaccines are released to ensure continued safety, and if concerns arise, these are investigated. You can be assured that safety was and is a top priority and no corners have been cut during the development of these vaccines.
We are hoping that we will be able to give the vaccine in our office within the next 1-2 weeks. We will be giving the Pfizer vaccine, as this is the only one right now which will be approved for ages 12 and up. They are currently doing studies in children from 6 months to 12 years of age, and those results will likely be available in the early fall. These will be reviewed by the FDA and if all goes well, I anticipate vaccine recommendations for all age groups by the end of the year or early 2022. I have received the vaccine and all of my family of eligible age have also received the vaccine.
Due to very strict storage and administration guidelines, we will be giving the vaccine only during specific times and an appointment will be needed, similar to other sites who have already been giving the vaccine. We plan to immunize all ages for which the vaccine is recommended, including adults and children, similar to how we do the Influenza vaccine. We will send more information with specifics regarding these times as we finalize our plans in the next couple of weeks. I look forward to being a part of the army fighting against this virus and pandemic.
Joseph M. Johnson, MD
P.S: May I also put in a plug to not forget to get vaccinated against Influenza this coming fall!
July 28, 2020
Dear patients and families,
I hope this letter finds you healthy and well. I have been receiving the same question over and over recently and I felt it would be best if I write a letter my answer to this question so that all of you understand my feelings on the matter. The question is, “Should my child attend school in person this fall?”
In light of the recent COVID-19 pandemic and all the conflicting information out there, it can be difficult to answer this question. My answer was formulated after careful review of as much of the material as I could. Here is my answer: Except in very rare circumstances (for example, severe unstable heart disease, need for full-time oxygen therapy, cancer on chemotherapy) I feel that children should attend school in person this fall, wearing a mask.
Let me explain why I have come to this conclusion about school attendance:
COVID-19 causes either very mild or no symptoms in the vast majority of children, especially those age of 12 and under. Of all other ages, teens are the next lowest risk group. Although there are exceptions you might read about in the press, this disease acts much like a mild common cold for most children who are infected. This contrasts with other respiratory diseases, such as Influenza or RSV, which tend to be more severe in children. There are theories as to why this is the case, and it has been seen consistently throughout the world. In my own clinic, I have had only one patient who has tested positive (out of more than 100 tests) and he did not have any symptoms (was tested due to a family member’s illness).
Studies have shown that children are very unlikely to spread this disease to others, including family members. There are a number of studies that show that children who get COVID-19 usually get it from a family member who is older (adult), rather than the other way around. Even in countries where children are attending school, this has been shown to be true.
There is also increasing evidence that wearing a simple face mask decreases the spread of this virus. Unfortunately, this has become very politicized in the United States, with strong opinions on both sides. As I see it, face masks are safe and if wearing one will allow me to work, attend school, and generally live my life the way I want, it is worth the tradeoff. I do not require my children to wear masks in our home or when we are appropriately socially distanced during outside activities, but you will need to make that decision for your own family. While at school, I feel they should wear a mask. Even younger children can be taught to wear a mask. I usually suggest having them wear it for short periods of time, perhaps while watching a show on your phone, and then gradually extending the length of time until they can wear them long enough to cover the school or pre-school day.
The American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement on school attendance this fall earlier this month (the full statement can be found at AAP.org). I will include the first couple of sentences:
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Federation of Teachers (AFT), National Education Association (NEA) and AASA, The School Superintendents Association, join together today [July 10, 2020] in the following statement on the safe return of students, teachers, and staff to schools: “Educators and pediatricians share the goal of children returning safely to school this fall. Our organizations are committed to doing everything we can so that all students have the opportunity to safely resume in-person learning.
The statement goes on to discuss the benefits of attending school, emphasizing that there is so much more that happens outside of academic learning when attending school in person. In particular, there are major social and emotional benefits from attending school. The interactions children have with peers and teachers cannot be duplicated online.
I have had discussions over the past few months with many of you during well-child visits about how you have seen your children suffer socially due to the restrictions which have been placed upon us. Babies who were starting to become comfortable being around other people are now exhibiting increased stranger anxiety again. Shy toddlers who were starting to interact with peers at preschool are now anxious to be around others again. Our children with autism or other special needs are struggling in their social relationships. Older children and teens have had increased anxiety and depression due to the disruption of their lives. I feel that our children of all ages need to be attending school in person to receive both social and emotional benefits, in addition to other benefits that I do not have space to list here.
These are my thoughts and opinions regarding school attendance for the coming fall. Again, I recommend that with rare exceptions, all children attend school, wearing a face mask as is currently required. I am hopeful that we will soon have better treatments, including a vaccine and better understanding about this virus so that we can continue to open our society back up safely. If you would like to discuss your specific situation with me personally, please feel free to give me a call at the office. It is one of my greatest joys in life to assist you in taking care of your children. Please stay safe.
Joseph Johnson, MD
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