It’s summer in the Rockies, and while this summer definitely feels more normal than summer 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic is not behind us yet.
While we have been successful in vaccinating the majority of our highest risk populations in Chaffee County, we have seen a lull in vaccine demand with eligible populations and are eagerly anticipating vaccinating those younger than 12 when approved to do so.
Chaffee County Public Health (CCPH), along with numerous local COVID-19 vaccine providers, continues to offer free opportunities to receive the vaccine for eligible populations. However, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment’s “Guide to Summer Activities for Parents, Guardians and Children” by Dr. Rachel Herlihy, state epidemiologist, vaccinating Colorado’s children will be key to ending the pandemic.
Scientific evidence shows that children and adolescents can and do get sick with COVID-19. They are also capable of spreading the virus to others. And while children may have milder symptoms overall, many hundreds of children and adolescents in the U.S. have died of COVID-19, and many more are at risk for lingering symptoms or complications.
If you are fully vaccinated and raising children who are not yet vaccinated, you may be wondering what is safe for your family.
As you make choices about activities for your family, think about these questions:
• What are the risks inherent to the activity?
• Can I make the activity safer?
• Should I choose another, lower risk activity?
• What do I know about the vaccination status of the people who will be there?
Some activities are inherently low risk. In general, outdoor activities are safer than indoor activities. One of the easiest ways to make an activity safer is for unvaccinated children ages 2 and older to wear a mask. If accompanying adults wear a mask as well, this may help to normalize and encourage mask-wearing for children. While mask-wearing doesn’t eliminate risk to children, it can reduce it substantially. There is no shame in wearing a mask regardless of vaccination status.
CCPH will continue to work closely with camps to make sure they have the resources and supports they need to have a successful summer season.
What you and your family need to know about the COVID-19 vaccine:
Children ages 12-17 are recommended to get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Clinical trials showed that the Pfizer vaccine is safe and extremely effective in this age group.
Among 2,260 trial volunteers ages 12-15, the Pfizer vaccine showed 100 percent efficacy.
The Moderna and Janssen (Johnson & Johnson) vaccines are only authorized for adults ages 18 and older.
Side effects for adolescents are similar to side effects for adults. They may include fever, chills, headache, soreness and tiredness.
Vaccinating tweens and teens – especially before summer camps and back to school – will help keep kids safe through the end of the pandemic.
The state of Colorado does not require minors to be accompanied to their vaccine appointments as long as parental consent is collected and shared prior to the appointment. This can be done through Colorado’s COVID-19 Vaccine Screening and Administration Form (view in Spanish) or through the vaccine provider’s online scheduling system. The provider may also obtain consent by phone and document it in the patient’s record.
Some vaccine providers may require children ages 12-17 to have a parent or guardian with them at their appointment. We recommend calling your provider ahead of time to check whether they require parental accompaniment.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has studied reports of inflammation of the heart muscle and surrounding tissue, called myocarditis and pericarditis, after COVID-19 vaccination among younger people. They found this adverse event is extremely rare and very few people will experience it after vaccination. In the very rare case it does occur, most cases are mild, and people often recover on their own or with minimal treatment.
CCPH recognizes that the past 16 months have been challenging for all of us, and this summer season gives us all ample opportunities to get outside and enjoy the activities we missed out on last year. We truly wish everyone, both locals and visitors, a safe, healthy and happy summer.
Andrea Carlstrom, MBA, is director of Chaffee County Public Health.