Will You Vaccinate Your Child? Coronavirus Vaccine For Ages 5-11 Are “Ready” To Go

We have had the Covid-19 vaccine for almost a year now; the Pfizer version is now fully approved for adults and for children 12 and older, so the focus is now naturally on availability for children ages 5-11. On November 2, The FDA finally approved emergency use of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine for children 5-11 years old, and federal officials say they are ready to begin administering as many as 20 million doses of the vaccine to children across the U.S. That is enough doses to give 2 shots to all 28 million eligible children ages 5-11. So why has it taken so long for us to get to this point, and will we soon see a large number of young children being vaccinated in this country?

Why The Push For a Vaccine?covid vaccine vial and needle with a virus next to the needle

At the beginning of the pandemic, children rarely got severely ill from Covid-19, but the Delta variant has changed that: almost 30,000 children were hospitalized in August alone from the highly contagious variant. Not only that, but according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, one in four children were infected with Covid last month: that makes a grand total of nearly 5.9 million Americans younger than 18 having been infected, with roughly 791 dead from the virus, 172 of them ages 5-11. 

“With new cases in children in the U.S. continuing to be at a high level, this submission is an important step in our ongoing effort against Covid-19,” a Pfizer official said.

Why the Delay?

The vaccine has taken much longer to be administered to children than to adults because, as experts point out, creating a vaccine for children is not merely a matter of reducing the dose of the adult version by a predetermined amount. That means researchers have been hard at work determining the correct formulation and have put the children’s version of the shot through vigorous trials. 

The Trialwoman in a lab coat looking at viales

The Pfizer vaccine trial included 2,268 children, two-thirds of whom received two 10-microgram doses of the vaccine 3 weeks apart; the other participants were injected with 2 doses of saltwater placebo. The data the drug companies presented to the FDA showed that the vaccine was 90.7% effective against symptomatic Covid. The antibody response to the vaccine was comparable to the one seen in people 16 to 25 years old.

The most common side effects were pain at the injection site, fatigue, and head and muscle aches, but kids who get the vaccine feel “ultimately fine in two or three days,” says Dr. Ibukunoluwa Kalu, a pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Duke University. The Pfizer vaccine has also been linked to rare cases of heart inflammation in adolescents and young adults, particularly young men, but Pfizer has said they did not see any instances of heart inflammation in the trial participants.

The two drug makers (Pfizer and BioNTech) are also testing the vaccine in children ages 2 to 5 years old and children ages 6 months to 2 years, with data expected in the fourth quarter.

Guidelines for Children Getting Vaccinated

After November 2nd, when the FDA approved the emergency authorization of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine, millions of doses began being shipped across the country. Each child will have to take 2 10-microgram doses of the vaccine (which is about one-third of the adult dose), 3 weeks apart to be considered fully vaccinated. 

Experts are recommending that, even if the child was exposed to Covid, they should still get the vaccine, since natural immunity offers some protection, but no one is sure how long this natural immunity lasts. It is also recommended that children continue to wear masks indoors after getting vaccinated. 

Will You Vaccinate Your Children?question mark with a red dot

State and federal officials, along with healthcare providers, believe that vaccinating children is more challenging than vaccinating adults. 

Pediatricians are urging parents not to wait: “You can’t wait until millions and millions of doses are given before you decide, because this virus is going to take every opportunity it can to infect someone,” says Dr. Tina Tan, pediatrician and infectious disease specialist at Northwestern and Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago.

“Because the delta variant is that much more transmissible, kids can get delta and can get quite sick from it,” says Tan. “You cannot predict — in a normal healthy child — who’s going to get very sick and who’s not. [Vaccinating] is the best way to protect your child against getting severe COVID illness.”

However, parents are still divided on whether they will give their children the vaccine, or wait until they “see how it goes.” According to a survey from the Kaiser Family Foundation, about a third of parents of young children have said they are willing to wait longer to give their children the vaccine, one-third have said they are willing to give it to their children “right away,” and the remaining third have made it clear that they will “definitely not” get the Covid-19 vaccine for their children.

Yet Another New Covid-19 Variant Is Spreading Across The US

Just when we thought things were returning to normal, a new Covid-19 variant has reared its ugly head. The variant known as BA.2 was first detected months ago, and is spreading quickly across the U.S. According to the CDC, this new variant is becoming the dominant strain of Covid, since it has been doubling each week for the past month. So what can we expect from this new strain?

The Spread of BA.2

red virus with a network connected in the background

This new Covid-19 variant, BA.2, is even more transmissible than the strain that came before it, the omicron variant. It made up 3% of cases in NJ and NY at the end of the week of March 12,  up 25% from the previous week! In the West, it has accounted for 27.7% of cases, up 17.1%.

But, while it’s clear that this new variant is more transmissible than others that came before it, what is unclear is if this new variant is more lethal than previous ones. “We often don’t know until it’s too late,” said Stephanie Silvera, an infectious disease specialist at Montclair State University in Montclair, New Jersey. “That’s been the problem with managing these surges. Deaths are one of the last impacts we see.”

“It’s difficult to predict how Covid-19 variants or any other emerging respiratory virus will evolve over time and what their specific impacts will be,” said Dr. Tina Tan, New Jersey state epidemiologist. “And it is hard to predict whether a surge in BA.2 will translate to increased hospitalizations or deaths at this time.”

Will the Vaccine Protect Against BA.2?

According to British scientists, the current vaccines have been shown to be effective in preventing severe illness from the new strain, but they might not prevent infection. Some experts are remaining hopeful, though. 

“…Hopefully, we won’t see a surge. I don’t think we will,” Chief Medical Advisor to the president Dr. Anthony Fauci said. “The easiest way to prevent that is to continue to get people vaccinated, and for those who have been vaccinated to continue to get boosted.”

Will We Go Back To A Mask Mandate?different colored masks

As of now, Dr. Fauci also does not think that mask mandates need to be reinstated. “If we do see a significant surge, particularly one that might result in increased hospitalizations, we have to be prepared to pivot and perhaps reinstitute some of those restrictions,” he said. “But right now, at this point, I don’t see that.”

Health Experts Warn Against Ignoring These Covid-19 Omicron Symptoms

It seems like every time we think we have turned a corner in defeating the coronavirus, a new variant rears its ugly head. The Omicron Covid-19 variant, which is believed to have originated in South Africa, has now been detected in more than 19 states in the U.S. While researchers continue to study the seriousness of Omicron, health experts have come up with a list of symptoms that accompany the new variant, and warn that people should not ignore them, or mistake them for those of a common cold.

Too Soon To Tell

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Omicron variant to be a concern last month. As scientists continue to research this version of Covid, they have seen some similarities between it and the common cold, but so far, all experts are sure of is that the genetic makeup of the Omicron variant is different from other Covid-19 strains. They believe that it is not as severe as the Delta variant, but health officials say it is too soon to tell if Omicron infections are milder than those of other forms of the coronavirus. There are, though, some symptoms that health officials say people should take seriously if they experience them.

Omicron Symptoms

Two of the major symptoms that have been seen in those who have contracted Omicron are fatigue and body aches: in fact, with this variant, people have reported being fatigued over other Covid symptoms, such as loss of taste and smell. Symptoms can be different among infected individuals, but so far what has been noted is that symptoms are milder, and include:caucasian woman in bed grabbing her neck in pain

  • Pain across different muscle groups
  • Feeling extremely tired or fatigued
  • Scratchy throat
  • Headache
  • Fever
  • Respiratory failure
  • Body chills
  • Shortness of breath
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Researchers and doctors note that the range of symptoms depends on the person’s vaccination status, age, and health history. Unvaccinated people can experience more severe symptoms.

Omicron Is Spreading Fastred virus with a network of connections around it

So far, from what has been seen over the last month and a half, the Omicron variant seems to spread at a faster rate than past variants. Researchers speculate this might be due to how the virus’ protein has mutated. “Estimates based on experience in South Africa allow scientists to postulate that the Omicron variant is at least three times more infectious than original versions of SARS-CoV-2,” says Dr. Nicholas Kman, M.D., an emergency medicine physician at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center “It may be possibly more contagious than the Delta variant, though [Delta] remains the dominant strain in the U.S., so it’s unclear if this is the case.”

In the meantime, doctors and health officials continue to urge Americans to get vaccinated to best protect themselves from Covid and its variants.

How to Avoid Astronomical Out-of-Pocket Medical Bills in 2022, Even if You Contract Covid

New reports surfacing show that people who dealt with Covid-19 in 2021 are now facing thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket medical costs from their hospitals, doctors, and ambulance companies. When the pandemic first started in 2020, doctors and hospitals were waiving fees such as co-pays and deductibles, when it came to Covid patients. That is no longer the case, leaving many people surprised with devastating out-of-pocket medical bills of $3,000 or more. Find out how you can avoid these debilitating costs this year. 

Average Medical Charges

evelope with the words final notice on it coming out of a red mailbox
People have been getting astronomical medical charges due to Covid hospitalization and treatment. 

The average Covid hospitalization costs approximately $40,000, researchers have found; many patients with job-related or self-purchased private insurance who did not have a waiver for medical services had to pay on average about $3,800 out-of-pocket for hospital care or other medical services due to Covid.

The study also suggests that insurer cost-sharing waivers for COVID-19 hospitalizations don’t always cover all hospital-related care. Overall, about 71% of insured patients who had a waiver still received a bill for any hospitalization, with an average cost of $788. 

So why were Covid patients required to pay so much more out-of-pocket medical bills in 2021 than they were in 2020? Well, as already pointed out above, most insurance companies stopped waiving fees,  changing their policies once the Covid vaccines became readily available to the public. 

“Many insurers claim that it is justified to charge patients for COVID-19 hospitalizations now that COVID-19 vaccines are widely available,” said study lead author Dr. Kao-Ping Chua, a health policy researcher and pediatrician at Michigan Medicine in Ann Arbor.

“However, some people hospitalized for COVID-19 aren’t eligible for vaccines, such as young children, while others are vaccinated patients who experienced a severe breakthrough infection. Our study suggests these patients could [have] substantial bills,” Chua said in a university news release.

How Can You Avoid These Charges?

The first way to avoid these charges? Protect yourself by getting the Covid vaccine. With that being said, even if you are vaccinated, you can still get a breakthrough infection, and you can still expect a bill if you seek care. So, the best way to avoid these charges is with a comprehensive and affordable health insurance plan: there are plenty of health insurance plans that will cover the majority of the costs, you just need to find the right one. In fact, with the right insurance plan, you could receive a waiver if you are hospitalized due to Covid, saving you usually around $2,000 or more.two hands shaking with a red heart in the background

Fortunately, you still have time: the Open Enrollment Period (OEP) has been extended until January 15 this year, so speak to an EZ agent now about how to enroll in a great plan without having to wait for a Special Enrollment Period qualification. Nobody should have to go without health insurance, especially during these difficult times, so if you would like to review options in your area, contact a local licensed EZ agent. Our agents are highly trained and work with the top-rated insurance companies in the nation, making comparing plans fast and easy. To get free quotes, simply enter your zip code in the bar above, or to speak with a licensed agent, call 888-350-1890.

CDC Approves COVID Boosters For All Adults

While there are growing concerns all over the world about a new Covid variant known as Omicron, health experts here are still urging calm and continuing to encourage as many Americans as possible to get vaccinated. Vaccines continue to prove effective against the virus, and there is no evidence yet that they will not protect us from the new strain of the virus. There is, though, some worry that the effectiveness of the vaccines begins to lessen over time, so older and immunocompromised patients have been eligible for booster doses for some time now. But now,  as health experts begin to focus on the severity of the new variant, the CDC has given the green light to administer Covid-19 vaccine boosters to all adults. 

a crowd of different colored silhouette of people
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices changed their policy on Covid-19 vaccines, allowing all adults to get booster shots.

The Expansion

At the end of October, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices voted to change their policy on Covid-19 vaccines, approving booster shots for everyone, and not just for people 50 and older, or those who are immunocompromised. Now, the only requirements to receive a booster are that individuals must be 18 or older, and must be at least six months past their last dose of a two-dose vaccine, or two months past a single-shot vaccine. 

CDC Director Rochelle P. Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., said of the decision,  “After critical scientific evaluation, today’s unanimous decision carefully considered the current state of the pandemic, the latest vaccine effectiveness data over time, and review of safety data from people who have already received a COVID-19 primary vaccine series and booster. Booster shots have demonstrated the ability to safely increase people’s protection against infection and severe outcomes and are an important public health tool to strengthen our defenses against the virus as we enter the winter holidays. Based on the compelling evidence, all adults over 18 should now have equitable access to a COVID-19 booster dose.”

Who Should Get A Third Dose?

Individuals are still considered fully vaccinated two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine, but booster shots are recommended to increase protection, especially among people who are immunocompromised or at high risk for severe Covid. illustration of 3 vaccine shots and viruses above the shot

For most people, these boosters should be given 6 months after being fully vaccinated; those with moderately to severely compromised immune systems, or who are living in a long-term care setting, should receive a full dose of the mRNA Covid-19 vaccine at least 28 days after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine. It is recommended that the third dose be from the same manufacturer as the first two, although the CDC has approved the mixing and matching of boosters.

For individuals who received a Johnson & Johnson vaccine, boosters shots are recommended for those who are 18 and older, and were vaccinated two or more months ago. 

As of now, no one knows what is going on with the new Covid variant Omicron, and there have been no cases detected in the U.S. yet,  but the CDC and health experts are urging Americans to continue to get vaccinated to better protect themselves and others.

Could It Be? Another Covid Variant Spreading Through The U.S.?

Just when we thought we were getting Covid under control, yet another variant of the virus is getting attention as it spreads through multiple countries. Covid Delta variant AY.4.2, also known as “Delta Plus,” has been found throughout the United Kingdom, and has now been spotted in labs in at least 8 different states in the U.S. Health authorities are doing extensive research to find out just why this variant is spreading faster than other variants, as well as if the current vaccines are effective against this new strain.

The AY.4.2 Delta Variantblue virus cells of all different sizes with a delta symbol in the middle

The AY.4.2 variant is a sub-lineage of the variant AY.4, and was first detected at the end of September, though it appears it surfaced in the UK around June. The U.K. has recorded one of the highest numbers of new Covid cases in any country in the past 30 days, second to the U.S.; the U.S., though, has so far only recorded 11 cases of the new variant, in California, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Carolina, Rhode Island and Washington state (as well as the District of Columbia). So far, it appears that Delta Plus spreads faster than other variants, with some scientists estimating that AY.4.2 has a 10-15% transmission advantage over Delta. They have noted, though, that it does not appear to cause more severe illness. 

“We have teams that are constantly reviewing the genetic sequence data and looking for blips, an increase in a certain proportion or just something that’s completely new,” says Dr. Summer Galloway, executive secretary of the U.S. government’s SARS-CoV-2 Interagency Group. 

Will The Current Vaccine Suffice?

Health authorities believe that current vaccines do remain effective against the new Covid strain AY.4.2. It’s still too early to tell just how much of an impact this new variant will have on Americans, but health officials point out that it takes higher levels of population immunity from both vaccinations and past infections to slow down transmission, no matter which variant we are dealing with. 

“Right now, I think there’s not a lot that we know. But in terms of the risk that it poses to public health, the prevalence is very low in the U.S. and we don’t really anticipate that the substitutions [of AY.4.2] are going to have a significant impact on either the effectiveness of our vaccines or its susceptibility to monoclonal antibody treatments,” said Galloway.needle and vial with covid-19 vaccine on the labelProf. Gupta, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, which advises the U.K. government, suggests that Delta is more contagious than previous variants because it can infect vaccinated people, who then pass it to other people. He says that “The high speed of replication means that the vaccinated person gets an infection and can spread it. Therefore, masks are an essential component of mitigation.”

It is still too early to tell how much of an impact the new Covid variant will have on the country, but researchers are closely monitoring this development to make sure we do not have another wave/surge in cases. Health officials are also hopeful that more people will continue to get vaccinated, because, as they point out, the more people get the shot, the better the chances of minimizing the new variant’s effects.