National academies publish guidelines for COVID-19 vaccines for children

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Although the United States Food and Drug Administration has not yet given the green light for COVID-19 vaccination for children under 12, it is expected that approval will be granted. In anticipation of the FDA green light, which is expected in the coming weeks, a new “rapid expert consultation” has identified “concrete directions” that state and local decision-makers can use to communicate with the public. The goal is to build confidence and promote uptake of COVID-19 vaccines, especially for parents who plan to vaccinate their children.

They note that the key factors in decision making relate to vaccine side effects, vaccine effectiveness in children, availability of research in their child’s age group, research conducted by parents themselves. same and recommendations from the child’s health care provider.

“One of the reasons the COVID vaccine only became available to children 12+ months after being approved for adults is that it takes time and many trial participants who are being closely watched before the vaccine doesn’t reach the general public, ”said Nusheen Ameenuddin, MD, MPH, MPA, assistant professor of pediatrics at the Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. “We continue to talk to parents that the vaccines have been very safe and effective in this group, and although people are concerned about the side effects, they are much milder and less common than the effects of the disease itself. same.”

Ameenuddin noted that the lack of data in this age group can be of concern to parents. “It’s not like other vaccines that have been available for a long time, and clinical trial data is still limited for this age group,” she said. “But I think the main point that practitioners need to stress is that even though the vaccine is new, the science for this vaccine has been around for about a decade.”

The unique circumstances of a pandemic, she said, made it possible to obtain important information on efficacy, safety and side effects more quickly from clinical trial data.

“We have very good evidence for children 12 years and older on safety and effectiveness, and although children are not little adults and have their own unique physiology, this has provided a good place to start. to suggest that slightly younger children will also respond well to vaccines, ”said Ameenuddin, who is also president of the American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media.“ As we learn more, we can start collecting more information from even younger children to ensure that the correct dosage and spacing of vaccines can provide maximum vaccine efficacy and protection against disease. “

The advice was published on October 13 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.

The rapid expert consultation was carried out through the Societal Experts Action Network, a national academies activity sponsored by NASEM and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. SEAN’s goal is to connect researchers in the social, behavioral and economic sciences with decision-makers to answer policy questions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In their expert consultation, the authors stress that vaccination is essential for reducing transmission and controlling infection, as well as limiting the emergence of future serious variants. As of October 3, 2021, about 65% of the U.S. population had received at least one dose of the vaccine, and the rate began to slow in many parts of the country. There are a variety of reasons for vaccine reluctance, they note, including perceived low risk from COVID-19 or high risk from COVID-19 vaccines, media exposure, political agendas, lack of confidence in science and mistrust in medicine. establishment. The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine is currently cleared for emergency use for people 12 years of age and over and fully approved for people 16 years of age and older, while the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are cleared for use in the emergency room. emergency for people 18 years and older.

Many children between the ages of 12 and 17 have not been vaccinated, and the main concerns reported by parents include not knowing enough about the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccine in children (88% ), concerns about children with severe side effects. (79%) and fears that the COVID-19 vaccine will negatively affect future fertility (73%).

National academies have already released two more “rapid expert consultations” that have addressed building confidence in vaccines, and both reports provide key strategies for communicating information about COVID-19 vaccines. In this article, the focus was on communicating with parents to gain confidence in the vaccine and address concerns.

Key points

The key strategies highlighted for communicating with parents are as follows:

  • Focus on Safety and Effectiveness: Parents should be made aware of ongoing research and clinical trials that will answer more questions about the vaccine and that there is ongoing monitoring of safety risks. Highlighting the safety data from clinical trials for 12 to 17 year olds, and the absence of serious adverse vaccine events in this age group may help alleviate concerns.

  • Calibri Encouraging Parents to Speak with a Primary Care Provider: Research shows parents trust family physicians and other healthcare professionals to provide them with accurate information about vaccines. Local, state, and national leaders can provide template messages and other resources for healthcare professionals who participate in these conversations.

  • Leverage social media to influence parents’ vaccination decisions: Parents are influenced by their social media connections. It is important to involve these networks, especially with members of their community who are seen as trustworthy and influential. Social networks can also be very diverse and include family members, friends, colleagues, social media, and members of their religious community.

Although the guidelines indicate that different groups of parents will need different messages, they suggest that communication can begin by focusing on the things that vaccination can accomplish. In addition to preventing infection with COVID-19, it will allow children to attend school in person and participate in extracurricular activities such as sports, without risking their health. “One thing I have learned over several years of working with parents hesitant about vaccination is that you have to tailor each approach to the individual,” said Ameenuddin. “Different people have different concerns, and most of all, it’s important to listen.”

For some parents, pointing out that the more people who can be vaccinated and the sooner it can be done, the faster everyone can return to normal life is a good approach, she added. “I think it’s important to highlight both the individual and collective benefits of vaccines, but it won’t necessarily reach everyone who is concerned. I think it’s important to find out what is most important for them. individuals and work from there to find a way to connect with that family to encourage immunization. “

Ameenuddin has no disclosure.

This story originally appeared on MDedge.com, which is part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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