WEEKLY COVID UPDATE: May 17

Benton County reported 91 new cases of COVID-19 this week, for a total of 3,117 cases county-wide since the start of the pandemic. A total of 20 people have died due to COVID in Benton County. The county is still in the “high risk” category of virus transmission.  

Vaccines in Benton County remain available through individual physician appointments or from a scheduled appointment at the mass Reser Stadium vaccination clinic occurring daily on Oregon State University campus. In addition, Blodgett Clinic and Kings Valley Clinic are now administering vaccines to the public with a pre-scheduled appointment. You can visit the county’s vaccine appointment website to learn more and schedule your vaccine.  

State-wide, Oregon reported nearly 4,500 COVID cases this past week, averaging almost 640 case reports per day. This is a welcomed decrease compared to reports from the week before which included almost 700 additional cases. The U.S. reported over 220,500 new cases in the past week, which again is a decrease from the previous week with roughly 100,000 fewer cases. It was the fourth week of declining case reports for the country.  

Pfizer Vaccine Available for Children 

The Food and Drug Administration officially cleared the Pfizer vaccine for use in children aged 12 to 15 years old on May 10. As of May 13, Benton County started making the vaccine available to children within this age range at clinics.  

Certain county regulations will affect how children are able to get their first and second doses. In Benton County, children between the ages of 12 and 14 are required to either have a parent or guardian physically present with them at the clinic when receiving the vaccine, or have a Benton County/Samaritan Health Systems minor consent form signed by their parent/guardian. A link to the form is available on the county vaccine website 

Minors 15 to 17 years of age do not need a consent form signed or a parent/guardian present. In compliance with medical consent laws in Oregon, individuals in this age range are able to consent to receiving the vaccination themselves. The ability for children and minors to now be vaccinated against COVID will play a significant role in combating the spread of the virus, and the FDA recommends all healthy and able individuals who are eligible for the vaccine to schedule themselves an appointment as soon as possible. 

What Parents Can Expect When Vaccinating Their Child 

As children and minors (anyone under the age of 18 years-old) make up almost a quarter of the U.S. population, providing this demographic with a safe, effective vaccine is a key component to entering a more “normal,” post-pandemic life.  

But parents have questions about what their children receiving the vaccine might look like, and what the potential short-term or long-term side effects may be. The Washington Post published an article this week addressing major questions parents have when considering vaccinating their child with the Pfizer vaccine. Of the 10 general questions addressed, here is a summary of a few answers by the Health and Science reporters at the WP 

In the trial conducted by Pfizer-BioNTech in which almost 2,300 children between the ages of 12 and 15 participated, it was found that vaccinated children actually developed more immunity post-vaccination than young adults did, meaning the vaccine is actually more effective for younger individuals. Only 16 cases of COVID were reported in children participating in the study, all from the group that received the placebo vaccine.  

Short-term side effects resembled those reported in adults and young adults, including tiredness, minor fevers, and achiness. The study has not been conducted long enough for researchers to understand potential long-term effects. Similarly, to trials of the vaccines conducted in adults, the pandemic was a cause for quick action, and thus researchers did not have years to adequately assess and understand potential long-term effects. However, Pfizer-BioNTech plans to monitor the nearly 2,300 children who participated in the trial for two years, and report on new findings.  

The article also touches on school decisions to require vaccinations in students, on potential trials with younger age groups, and what we know of how this vaccine may react when administered with other immunizations children regularly receive. The short answer to this question – we do not know much yet.  

In summary, the FDA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Oregon Health Authority all endorse the vaccine for distribution amongst children in the tested age group. In a press briefing this week, Oregon Governor Kate Brown said this was excellent news for families struggling with the stress the pandemic has introduced to our lives, adding “vaccination is the best tool we have to protect ourselves and our loved ones.” 

This is a weekly column updating the residents of Benton County on local, national, and international news on the pandemic. If you would like to make suggestions of topics to cover related to the virus, please email any resources or thoughts to covidupdate@corvallisadvocate.com.    

By: Lauren Zatkos