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Everything you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines

Donna Hallas, CPNP, FAAN, FAANP, PMHS, PPCNP-BC, PhD, discusses the top news from the October issue of Contemporary Pediatrics®.

Insights for prescribing COVID-19 vaccines for the pediatric populations

The October special issue of Contemporary Pediatrics® focuses on COVID-19 vaccines for pediatric populations and includes articles on mRNA technology, vaccine development, the latest news about COVID-19 vaccines, and responding to parental concerns and decisions to have their infants, children and adolescents receive the COVID-19 vaccines. An article by Tina Tan, MD, “What is the latest news in COVID-19 vaccines?” provides the current statistics for COVID-19 vaccination uptake in infants and children. These statistics are very concerning: only 7% of infants 6 months through 4 years have received 1 dose of the vaccine and in the 5 to 11-year-old population, only 30% have completed the 2-dose series. Pediatric nurse practitioners (PNPs) and all pediatric focused providers must not only be knowledgeable about each of the topics on COVID-19 vaccines presented in this October 2022 issue but also design evidenced-based practice strategies to improve vaccination rates in their pediatric practices.

mRNA technology and vaccine development

If asked, ‘what is mRNA technology and how were the COVID-19 vaccines developed so quickly?’ can you as a PNP present information “mRNA technology” by William J. Muller, MD, PhD, that clearly articulates the technology providing a knowledge base for parents upon which an informed decision can be made? Furthermore, can you succinctly articulate the established FDA protocols highlighted by Barbara J. Kuter, PhD, MPH, in her article, “Vaccine development,” that are designed to assure safety in the development of the vaccines, clinical trials and the ongoing surveillance? These articles provide information that can be synthesized by providers and presented to parents in less than two minutes to relieve them of anxiety and assure them of the value of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Vaccine hesitancy and refusal

The statistics for the number of children between the ages of 6-months and 12 years who have received the COVID-19 vaccines inform us about the high level of vaccine hesitancy and refusal. In the article, Responding to increasing parental vaccine hesitancy, Dr. Peck provides an overview of vaccine hesitancy and ways providers can speak with parents about vaccines for their children to reduce the hesitancy and enable parents to make an informed decision. Additionally, Assistant Editor Celeste Krewson’s article, “Experts discuss COVID-19 vaccine in pediatric patients,” highlights Drs. Muller and Offit scientific viewpoints on COVID-19 in children and the vaccines. They discuss the impact of the COVID-19 illness in the pediatric population identifying data that showed thus far, 45,000 children under 5 years required hospitalization and 1 in 4 of these children required admission to intensive care units. Drs. Muller and Offit also provide insights for talking with parents about COVID-19 vaccines including the safety and efficacy of the vaccines.

We have to learn to live with SARS-CoV-2

‘We have to learn to live with SARS-CoV-2’ is a statement that I had hoped, and I feel certain that all health care providers throughout the United States and around the world had hoped would not become a reality. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic 2 years and 7 months ago. The devasting effects of this disease in the first year the outbreak overwhelmed hospital systems throughout the U.S. and the world. Listening to daily reports of the catastrophic way in which the disease attacked people and took so many lives was chilling. No one was untouched: we all had family members, friends, work colleagues, neighbors, and we lived in or near communities that suffered a high disease burden. So many people lost their lives. Thus, it is perplexing to try to rationalize the underpinnings of the beliefs of individuals and populations who are vaccine refusers. Vaccine refusers have adversely impacted vaccine uptake, some via spreading misinformation about the disease and vaccines on social media. Vaccine refusers remain adamant about refusal not only for themselves but also for their children. As of October 22, 2022, there have been over 1 million deaths from COVID-19 in the United States and over 99,000,000 COVID-19 cases in the United States.1 As a pediatric researcher, the importance of conducting research on the beliefs of vaccine refusers is critical to understanding ways to improve vaccine uptake. Both pediatric and adult clinicians and researchers have a lot of work to do to change the outcome from, ‘we have to learn to live with SARS-CoV-2’ to ‘we have conquered COVID-19 disease’ through vaccine uptake and respect for the health and well-being of all those with whom we come in contact.

Reference

1. Worldometer. United States Coronavirus statistics. October 24, 2022. October 24, 2022. https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/