DPHSS: No let up on Covid shots for kids
By Aurora Kohn
The Department of Public Health and Social Services today reiterated its recommendation for parents to get their children vaccinated for Covid-19, maintaining that its potential side effects are minor compared to its advantages.
Public health officials insist that unvaccinated children in the six months to five-years-old age group are prone to the “severe outcomes” of Covid-19.
At today’s briefing on Covid-19 updates, Dr. Robert Leon Guerrero, the department’s interim chief medical officer, cited the case of an unvaccinated 17-year-old boy who died from multiple strokes.
“We had two DOAs— a six-month-old and a three-week-old. We had over 25 admissions in the past three months for Covid bronchiolitis in children who could have benefited from the vaccine and would not have been admitted,“ Leon Guerrero said.
He allayed fears that the Covid-19 vaccine was not safe for children and young adults.
“If the American Academy of Pediatricians, who are a bunch of smart people, and pediatricians on this island who have children under the age of one are getting their kids vaccinated, that should show that it’s not only very safe but effective, “ Leon Guerrero said.
In an earlier interview, Dr. Hoa Nguyen, former chairman of the governor’s Physician Advisory Group, warned that the Covid vaccine exposes young males— from 18 to 39 years old — to the risk of myocarditis, a condition that causes inflammation of the heart muscle.
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Leon-Guerrero agreed that myocarditis can develop as a side effect of the Covid-19 vaccine, but argued that the symptoms are “mild, usually self-limiting in result.”
“Covid causes myocarditis, period. And at a much higher rate than the vaccine, it’s more symptomatic and more deadly than the vaccine,“ Leon-Guerrero said.
'The risk of getting myocarditis from the Covid-19 vaccine can be mitigated by spacing the shots three months apart."
In a separate interview, Dr. Nathan Berg, chairman of the governor’s Physicians Advisory Group, noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended the Covid vaccine for children.
However, he said, parents are free to make their own decisions. “I recommend that parents of children talk to pediatricians to ensure that they are making an informed choice,” Berg said.
Nguyen also urged DPHSS to shift gears toward influenza, which he said is expected to reach its peak between December and March.
“Flu shot is not ignored. It is less controversial. We get flu shots every year,” Berg said. “We need to focus on offering both flu shots and Covid vaccine.”
Leon Guerrero said residents should get their flu shots, but “not at the expense of the Covid vaccine.”
“You can get both at the same time. Studies are showing that it doesn’t cause any increase in problems if you get both the Covid-19 vaccine and the flu shot,” he said.
Flu vaccines are available at all the clinics and bivalent Covid-19 vaccines are available at public health clinics, the Plaza and Guam Regional Medical Center. The public health clinics in Dededo and Inarajan have both the bivalent vaccines and flu vaccines for children as young as six months and older.
DPHSS acknowledged the recent surge in cases of respiratory illness that led to an overflow of pediatric respiratory patients at Guam Memorial Hospital and “stressed the limits” of the government medical facility.”
Public health officials said the situation necessitated the transfer of DPHSS medical personnel to GMH.
“It’s been a learning experience for everyone,” said Patrick Luces, Covid-19 incident commander at DPHSS.
With regard to the governor’s decision to extend the public health emergency through Nov. 5, Berg said it is done out of "an abundance of caution.”
He said the government did not want to make the mistake of assuming that the Covid-19 pandemic was over and then be confronted with another surge later.
“We would like to have more cushion of time before saying with certainty that the pandemic is over,” Berg said. “We all can be hopeful and confident that we are not going to have another surge of Covid cases.”
DPHSS said Covid-19 vaccines may not provide adequate protection against new variants of the Covid-19 virus. However, the bivalent Covid-19 vaccines currently available on island may provide protection against these variants and DPHSS encouraged residents to avail of bivalent vaccines as well as the flu vaccine. (With additional reports from Mar-Vic Cagurangan)