The COVID-19 vaccine made specifically for children ages 5 to 11 will make its way to Cuyahoga County as soon as later this week or early next week.
UH Rainbow Babies and Children's Director of Pediatric Infection Control and Innovation Dr. Claudia Hoyen said that the children's COVID-19 vaccine, which features one-third of the amount of the Pfizer vaccine given to adults, will soon be available for children ages 5 to 11 once it's approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Hoyen made this announcement during a Cuyahoga County Board of Health press briefing Oct. 27. It's her hope that this age group that she referred to as "the most vulnerable" can start receiving the vaccine in the next couple of weeks once it's approved.
In preparation, Rainbow Babies and CCBH will start receiving the juvenile version of the inoculation shortly.
"It's important for all of us to protect our most vulnerable patients but also everyone around us," Hoyen said. "That's why it's really important that we consider getting kids vaccinated not only for their health, but also for ... those other parts of life that really help with our wellness and our wellbeing."
Hoyen aimed to dispel false information or trepidation surrounding children getting vaccinated. One of the greatest concerns in the younger population receiving the vaccine, she said, is this discovery of males ages 18 to 30 undergoing myocarditis, or an inflammation of the heart muscle, following the second dose of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
She stressed that these rare cases of myocarditis following the vaccine are "much more mild" than if a patient had actually gotten the virus itself, because one of the symptoms COVID-19 can cause is heart issues. Of the patients who underwent myocarditis at Rainbow, Hoyen said they were in the hospital for a day and then went home, instead of requiring ICU visits typical for those myocarditis cases from the natural virus.
"I can tell you, I've taken care of patients with myocarditis this summer from other reasons besides COVID, and I would still recommend for any child that they get the COVID vaccine," Hoyen said.
She warned of difficulties with long-term side effects and impacts caused by children having COVID-19, including fatigue, anxiety and multi-inflammatory syndrome of children.
Board of Health Deputy Director of Prevention and Wellness Romona Brazile said she believed the vaccination supply for children will be "good" and "widely available" at pharmacies, health care providers, etc.
When the vaccines are available for children, Brazile encouraged parents get their children ages 5 to 11 vaccinated through their health care provider.
On a county level, 56% of all Cuyahoga County residents have been vaccinated, CCBH Commissioner Terry Allan said.
Currently, COVID-19 cases are on the decline, Allan said. He said that modeling conducted by Case Western Reserve University and the University of Akron indicate that cases should continue to decrease into November.
Despite this "encouraging" drop, Cuyahoga County still remains at three times the CDC's threshold for high transmission. The colder months are also approaching, and families and friends will start to gather indoors for the holidays.
Hoyen brought up the possibility of a "twin-demic" in the winter months, where flu and COVID-19 find strength in people gathering indoors.
Flu season around the country was quiet last year, due to masking, social distancing and disinfecting protocols for COVID-19, Allan said. The county's flu surveillance program is already underway for the 2021-2022 season, with flu activity currently low. However, Allan warned that this year's flu season is "very unpredictable."
He and Hoyen urged everyone to receive a flu shot and the COVID-19 vaccine to keep themselves safe and others around them healthy.
"If we all mask indoors and get vaccinated, we can speed our recovery as we all look ahead to the holidays," Allan said.
Booster doses for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are available for specific groups of adults who received their second dose at least six months prior: those 65 and older and those who live in long-term care facilities, adults ages 50 to 64 with certain underlying health conditions, adults ages 18 to 49 with certain underlying medical conditions and those 18 and up who are at risk for COVID-19 and its transmission due to their job or living situation.
The Johnson & Johnson booster is available to adults who received their first dose at least two months prior.
It's up to the eligible adults to decide what booster to receive. Brazile suggested they speak with their health care provider to find the one best suited for them.
On a county level, Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish announced he plans on submitting legislation to county council that would protect residents from discrimination based on their source of income. This legislation would allow renters to use various sources of income to pay rent and would prevent landlords from preventing possible renters from looking at a dwelling due to income.
If passed, those who believe they've been discriminated against due to source of income can submit a complaint with the county human rights commission. The commission would use a neutral process for each case to make a decision, Budish said.
"This is a needed protection for our renters in Cuyahoga County," Budish said. "Residents should be able to choose where they want to live without having to worry if their source of payment will prevent them from being able to make that choice."
Budish said this legislation would also add an incentive to landlords to help prioritize equal housing. If a landlord accepts a tenant using a Section 8 tenant voucher, the county would provide funds to the landlord. This, he said, will cover an amount up to the tenant's security deposit and two months of rent.
The legislation plan could support housing choices for an estimated 1,400 families over a three-year period, Budish said.
More information regarding the plan will come in the future, he said.