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Pictured are Dr. Lynn Dunham, Dr. Barbara Mincarelli, Dr. Carrie Rowan, Dr. Jerzy Przygodzki and Dr. Elizabeth Daniels of Jamestown Pediatric Associates. The local organization is currently providing COVID-19 vaccines for children. PJ photo by Katrina Fuller

Jamestown Pediatrics is offering the COVID-19 vaccine for children, one of several options now available for local parents.

Dr. Lynn Dunham, Dr. Jerzy Przygodzki, Dr. Carrie Rowan, Dr. Barbara Mincarelli and Dr. Elizabeth Daniels DO shared their thoughts on the issue, as well as what they have seen so far with the pediatric vaccines.

Dunham said Jamestown Pediatrics will be providing COVID-19 vaccines for their patients from age 5 to 11 years old.

“We are offering it for when children come in for their well visits and for any other visits that they’re seen in the office for that are non-sick visits,” she said. “We also are scheduling COVID clinics here that right now are based on the basis of availability of nurses to provide the services. We’re hoping to increase those as time goes on, but right now, it’s been about once per week.”

Dunham said the practice has seen many families take advantage of the availability of the pediatric vaccine. Due to the high demand, she said there are “a handful of spots left.”

“We have actually quite a few clinics in December, and of those, people have called in and already filled up the schedule before we have been able to even announce some of the dates publicly for more spots,” Dunham said. “The greatest number of vaccinations actually I think in the county have come through the JCC clinics that the county has done so far. I think over time that Wille expands to other sites and they have other locations also in the county, but ours here have gone really well.”

At this time, vaccinations are available by appointment or through the clinics held at the practice, which will be announced as they are available. Patients must currently be patients of the practice and can call the office for more information.

Dunham said the practice is currently recommending parents get their children vaccinated against COVID-19 if they are between the ages of 5 and 11.

“I think the mRNA vaccinations are extremely safe and they’re very effective,” she said. “They’ve been studied for a long time. This was an emergency authorization use for them, but really they have been looked at closely and they are safe and effective for children.”

Daniels said she gets a lot of questions from parents regarding what the risks are involving the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination for children.

“The side effects that you see are right away within two weeks of having any immunization being available, even with polio and some of the older ones,” Daniels said. “The beauty in this is that we now have data to support this, its safety and for the 5 to 11 group especially, their safety profile was expanded by request from the FDA. There are more kids in the study trials that have shown its safety and we don’t have any situations that we have seen that we have to be concerned about. I think for all our kids, especially our kids who do have medical risks, we see their safety with the COVID vaccine is much greater than with COVID itself.”

Daniels added that most children have a mild response to the vaccine. Parents don’t necessarily need to schedule their appointment for a certain day of the week to make sure their children don’t miss school due to the vaccine, she said.

“So far, the study data and the kids that we have had here who’ve received the vaccine have had very mild symptoms, and most of which I might add, my children included, didn’t even have a sore arm after the first dose. The second dose in the study data looks like headache and sore arms might be it, so we’re not expecting that kids are going to have big fevers or anything like that after this. This dose is a third of the adult dose in the Pfizer immunization.”

Dunham said she has also received questions from parents regarding these issues, including cardiac issues in children.

“Parents are concerned about that, myocarditis and or pericarditis, which are the side effects are potential with the vaccine – but it’s extremely, extremely rare. Typically, when that has happened, it’s been very acute in nature versus the cardiac side effect from COVID-19 itself that can be much longer-lasting potentially. Both of which are extremely failing in children.”

Dunham pointed out that the practice is encouraging parents to take their children to be vaccinated regardless of whether they receive the vaccinations at their facility or not. Rather, the practice is encouraging families to seek out the vaccine when it is available.

“We’re highly encouraging children to get it whatever they can get it, but if people are comfortable with us here, we want to be available for them,” she said. “However, we would also be supportive of them getting it wherever they can get it first available.”

Daniels said it is important for parents to keep an eye out as we head into the holiday season, as COVID can have very mild symptoms.

“With kids, a lot of the time, they can have a very mild course of symptoms,” she said. Some don’t – some have more severe symptoms, but a lot of mild symptoms can be COVID, so it’s really important to use your judgment, and if your kids are not feeling well, don’t just assume it’s allergies. It really could be an infection. It is being recommended that if before your get-together, if you’re going to be around people who are not immunized or your children are not fully protected, it’s not a bad idea to do that at-home test and make sure you’ re not spreading that.”

Daniels added that wearing a mask in a large group setting is also still advised.

“I know it’s nice to see people, but if you’re traveling or out and about, really be careful with of course hand washing, but also about using your mask and being conscientious about those things when you’re out.”

Child vaccines are also being made available through clinics at SUNY Fredonia and Chautauqua Lake Central School, as well as local pharmacies.

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