At a press briefing today, UPMC leaders shared the importance of COVID-19 vaccination for children five to 11 years old and encouraged pregnant women to get vaccinated. Experts also encouraged those who are eligible for vaccine boosters to receive one.
The CDC recently recommended booster shots of the three available COVID-19 vaccines in the U.S. for certain segments of the population who are at higher risk for contracting the virus.
“Boosters help remind your body and reinforce the protection you have from earlier vaccination,” said Tami Minnier, chief quality officer at UPMC. “You can now get a booster with more flexibility – meaning you can choose to mix between vaccines or match what you had before in many cases.”
Any patients with questions about their eligibility for a booster or the vaccine in general should contact their primary care physician, pediatrician or obstetrician
“If you have questions, turn to an expert,” Minnier said. “We are here to explain the data and science. We want to share the facts and give you accurate information so that you are empowered to make your own, informed decisions.”
Richard Beigi, M.D., president of UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital, encouraged pregnant women to contact their doctor with any concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines.
“Often due to misinformation, only 30-35 percent of pregnant women in the U.S. are vaccinated and protected against COVID-19,” Beigi said. “Sadly, in our region those vaccination rates about the same.”
Pregnant women are at higher risk for complications from COVID-19, and the vaccine has been proven safe and effective for these patients as well as their babies. Rigorous clinical studies have shown no adverse effects for mothers, their babies or for women who hope to become pregnant.
“The often mentioned but unsubstantiated concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines causing miscarriages or creating problems getting pregnant is a myth, plain and simple,” Beigi said. “What is not a myth is the harm that COVID-19 can have on pregnant women and their babies. Some mothers have lost their lives and others were too sick to even lay eyes on their child soon after birth. I implore women to make informed decisions based on real information from trusted professionals.”
In addition, parents who have questions about the newly approved Pfizer vaccine for kids aged five to 11 are also encouraged to reach out to their pediatrician.
“Our pediatricians will answer all questions parents have about the COVID-19 vaccine,” said Alejandro Hoberman, M.D., president of UPMC Children’s Community Pediatrics. “UPMC has a robust and equitable plan to provide the COVID-19 vaccines to all eligible children in our region.”
Hoberman emphasized that while there are fewer COVID-19 infections in children than adults, the virus can still cause kids to become critically ill and even die.
“Tragically, 750 children have lost their lives to this virus,” Hoberman said. “Some may say, ‘the rates are low,’ but in my eyes, it is 750 too many. That is four times greater the number of deaths caused by any flu epidemic in the last 20 years. COVID-19 is among the top 10 causes of death in children.”
Studies have shown that the Pfizer vaccine is safe for kids, with mild side effects. Myocarditis is rare, affecting only five in one million cases, and the majority of these patients recover quickly. Hoberman noted that rates of myocarditis are higher in patients who contract COVID-19 than in those who receive the vaccine.
“We need to understand that COVID-19 is now a vaccine-preventable disease, like measles and polio and many other diseases that affect children,” Hoberman said. “As a society we must protect our children, and the vaccine can do this. Across the U.S., school classrooms close because of COVID cases. When this happens, we interrupt the education and socialization that children need and are essential to their development.”
Patients or parents who want to schedule a vaccine for themselves or their children should visit Vaccine.UPMC.com or call 844-UPMCVAC (844-876-2822) between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week.
Existing UPMC Children’s Community Pediatrics families can schedule an appointment online at ChildrensPeds.com/COVIDVaccine.
UPMC Magee will hold a vaccine clinic for pregnant women at the hospital on Wednesday, Nov. 17, from 2-5 p.m. Physicians will be on site to answer any questions pregnant women may have about the vaccine. To learn more about this clinic, call 412-641-4361.