AUGUSTA — COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 were endorsed by Dr. Rochelle Walensky of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention yesterday.

Dr. Nirav Shah, director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said Wednesday, Nov. 3, at his weekly briefing, the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children is “the best tool available to control the spread of the virus and ensure kids remain safe and healthy.”

With hundreds of millions of doses already safely administered in the U.S., Shah said the kids’ vaccine is a smaller dose, one-third the amount given to adults.

The CDC has released data showing myocarditis, or nflammation of the heart muscle, is a possible side effect of the vaccine. Shah said the CDC reported 877 cases in people under the age of 30. “That is out of 86 million doses administered, and none have died,” he said.

In a separate study, 90% of those who developed myocarditis made a full recover,y he said. In the clinical trial for the Pfizer vaccine for kids 5 to 11, no cases of myocarditis were reported. For many parents, however, this remains a sticking point, he said.

Shah said people can also get myocarditis from COVID-19 itself. “What is the greater risk?” he asked. “Is it from the vaccine, where the risk is about 10 cases per 100,000, or is the bigger concern from COVID itself, where the risk is 150 per every 100,000 (people)?”

“It’s clear,” he said, “the greater risk is from the virus, not from the vaccine.”

The clinical trial analysis revealed the Pfizer vaccine was 91% effective at reducing the risk of contracting COVID-19 in kids 5 to 11, he said, and added that kids are less likely to get severely sick or need to be hospitalized after getting the vaccine.

Getting kids vaccinated also protects others who may be at risk of catching the virus, such as those with compromised immune systems or who may be too young to be vaccinated.

Shah said getting children vaccinated can save time and even money by keeping them in school without having to quarantine. Once fully vaccinated, he said, a child exposed to the virus at school need not quarantine, although they will still need to be tested.

Fully vaccinated children can be in the classroom more, and parents will not need to struggle to make work arrangements, as they would if their child were exposed and had to quarantine for 10 days.

“Getting them vaccinated will make their lives more predictable and help restore a sense of stability,” Shah said.

COVID-19 vaccination locations can be found in community clinics like the one in Sanford operated by York County Emergency Management Agency or the one at the Auburn Mall. All Walmart pharmacies will offer the vaccine, along with a number of Hannaford and Walgreens pharmacies.

Doctor’s offices, family pediatricians and school-based clinics will also be used to offer vaccinations to children in this age group. Shah recommended searching for “Maine COVID Vaccine Site” online to find the state’s site listing all available locations. (maine.gov/covid19/vaccines/vaccination-sites) Check back often, as additional sites will be added as they come online, he said.

Shah also said his agency is reporting 14 additional deaths in the state due to the virus. Out of this total, 11 were found after reviewing death records between Oct. 17 to 25.

Of the 14 recent deaths, four were from Androscoggin County, one was from Aroostook, two were from Franklin, one was from Lincoln, four were from Penobscot, one was from Washington and one was from York County. Four were women and nine were men. One was in their 50s, four were in their 60s, four were in their 70s and five were in their 80s.

Maine CDC reported yesterday that a Waldo County resident died from the virus, among a total of 11 reported for Tuesday, Nov. 2.

Since yesterday, 660 new cases of the disease were reported in the state. As of today, 212 people are in hospitals, compared to two weeks ago, when 199 people were hospitalized. Currently 76 people are in intensive care beds, while two weeks ago the number was 68; 37 are on ventilators, while two weeks ago there were 34.

To date, 70.7% of Mainers are fully vaccinated, while 77% have received at least one dose. The state is administering 7,768 doses per day,  a 99% increase from two weeks ago.

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