Kids and the COVID-19 Vaccine: What Parents Should Know

Pfizer Vaccine Approved for Children Ages 5-11

The COVID-19 vaccine is now available to children ages 5 to 11, however, supplies and availability are extremely limited at this time.  More information will be coming soon on how parents can schedule their child’s COVID-19 vaccine through IHA. 

On November 2, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for emergency use for children ages 5-11. It is a 2-dose series taken three weeks apart. Each dose will be 1/3 the dosage of the adolescent/adult vaccine.  

St. Joe’s has been vaccinating children ages 12 and up since May of 2021, and we have confidence that the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for our patients. As of October 2021, more than 11.1 million adolescents have been vaccinated against COVID-19 with the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine nationwide.

Here’s what you should know about the vaccine, the possible of side effects, and the benefits of getting your child vaccinated.

+ It is 90-100% effective in clinical trials
+ There were no severe cases of COVID-19 in clinical trials
+ The vaccine works against Delta and other known variants.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I worry the vaccine is too “new”? No.
As of October 2021, more than 6.63 billion doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given worldwide, with more than 416 million doses in the United States. For adolescents alone, over 11 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine tell us that this vaccine is no longer “new.” Scientists and pediatricians feel confident in the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine. Waiting puts you at higher risk for infection and illness.

The vaccine got to us fast due to: 

The vaccine research for mRNA started in 1961 and, in the last decade specifically, was focused on SARS.

  • mRNA research started in 1961 and, in the last decade specifically, was focused on SARS.
  • The vaccine was released more quickly thank other vaccines because the production started before the clinical trials. This was due to the urgency of the pandemic, which provide funding and resources to speed development.
  • Due to high disease rates in our communities during vaccine development, we didn’t have to wait for a minimum number of cases for clinical trials.

Will we need booster shots every year? We don’t know yet.
It depends on how many people get vaccinated and if the virus continues to spread and change. As the population becomes vaccinated, we reduce the spread of the virus, which helps to prevent it from continuing to change. We won’t need boosters if we are reducing and eliminating variants of COVID-19.

Does it affect puberty or fertility? No.

Based on our knowledge of mRNA, we are confident that the COVID-19 vaccine will not have long-term effects on puberty or fertility. mRNA cannot integrate with DNA or alter cells. 

  • Vaccine ingredients are cleared from the body quickly. mRNA is fragile and breaks down within 72 hours after injection. Ingredients do not linger in the body. 
  • Thousands upon thousands have gotten pregnant after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. 
  • mRNA vaccine is not made up of COVID-19. It is only the protein. 
  • There are reports of menstrual cycle changes after the COVID-19 vaccine. This is due to the body mounting an immune response and a temporary side effect, like a fever. 

What are the most common side effects for kids? They can vary but are minimal.

  • Side effects that have been reported are mild to moderate such as fever, fatigue, headache, chills, diarrhea, or muscle aches.
  • More kids reported side effects with the second dose compared to the first dose.
  • Rare side effects can happen, such as swollen lymph nodes or skin sensitivity, but these are not long-term and resolved in most cases in a few days. 

How do we know about long term side effects? Decades of research.

Based on our knowledge of mRNA and the human body, we don’t expect long-term side effects since it breaks down in the body in 72 hours.  

  • As will all vaccines, including the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines, concerning side effects have all occurred within 6-8 weeks after injection. Vaccine development is based on decades of research. Scientists have done a rigorous review of all available data before approving for children. Our history of science tells us that if there are no side effects in those first few weeks, we are confident that concerns that arise with any patient decades later are unlikely to be related to any vaccine.  
  • mRNA cannot be converted to or inserted into DNA. It’s not scientifically possible. 

How common is Myocarditis for children after vaccination? Extremely rare.

​​​​​​Myocarditis means “inflammation of the heart muscle. This can happen due to the robust immune response the vaccine can have on your body.

  • It is very rare. We expect 26 cases of myocarditis per 1 million doses given. That’s 0.0026%.
  • Symptom of myocarditis is most commonly chest pain or difficulty breathing and usually happens within the first week after injection. 
  • Adolescents who have had this rare side effect are monitored closely. Most make a full recovery in 3-4 weeks by using anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen.
  • No kids have died of myocarditis after the COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Myocarditis can also happen if you get the actual COVID-19 virus. In those cases, unfortunately, the myocarditis is more common, more severe, and last long-term.

My child had COVID. Do they need the vaccine? Yes.

  • We know that “natural immunity” can be high at first. However, protection can drop off quickly or change based on circulating variants.
  • Getting a vaccine, even for those who have already had COVID-19, strengthens your immune response.
  • If you had COVID-19 once, it is possible to get a different strain again. The immune response after infection is not as focused. Evidence shows the vaccines protect you longer and for all the variants to date.
  • Most importantly, the vaccine gives protection and prevents hospitalization for several of the COVID variants. 
  • Your child can get the COVID-19 vaccine once they are out of quarantine. There is no “waiting period,” as another strain may come, and the vaccine will protect from getting hospitalized. 

Can kids become very sick with COVID? Yes.

COVID-19 disease in kids can range from no symptoms to severe illness. 

  • As of October 2021, over 6.3 million COVID-19 pediatric cases have been reported.
  • Only 43% of kids under 12 have natural immunity.
  • 30% of hospitalizations for kids with COVID-19 hadno underlying medical conditionsAs of October 2021, there were 5,217 MIS-C cases linked to COVID-19 in kids. This multi-organ system effect makes children extremely ill and requires hospitalization, often in the ICU. 
  • Long COVID, or lingering COVID-19 symptoms, can lead to learning problems, heart problems, exercise fatigue with sports, and respiratory issues. This has been reported in about 8% of children who have had COVID-19. 
  • Since the pandemic began, over 600 pediatric deaths due to COVID-19 have been reported. It is now a top 10 cause of death for kids in the United States. 

What are the ingredients? Put simply, it’s fat, salt, electrolytes and sugar.  

  • Lipids: This “fatty layer” protects the delicate mRNA so it has time to work before getting chopped up. Polyethylene glycol (PEG), the most famous lipid, is also the main ingredient in MiraLAX (which you know about if your child has ever been constipated).
  • Potassium chloride, monobasic potassium phosphate, sodium chloride, and dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate and sucrose: These fancy names are just salt, some electrolytes, and sugar. These ingredients help keep the vaccine stable and are natural preservatives.

Is there less quarantine from school, sports, or activities if vaccinated? Yes.

  • This pandemic has been traumatizing, especially for children. Their lives were abruptly disrupted in March 2020, and their mental and physical health has suffered. Anxiety and depression rates are up. 
  • Based on the State of Michigan’s current guidelines, students who are vaccinated and exposed to COVID-19 can remain in school and wear a mask.  
  • We know that less quarantining will only benefit all children.

We know how to beat this awful virus: Listen to the doctors

For the fourth time in the last eighteen months, Michigan is experiencing a rising wave of COVID-19, as cases, hospitalizations, and deaths surge in communities across the state. But this time is different: we have a free, widely available, highly effective and safe vaccine available.

And that’s why today, frontline medical professionals from 21 health systems all over Michigan jointly signed a letter calling on you, if you’re still unvaccinated, to please go get your COVID-19 vaccine today. The vaccines are free, widely available, highly effective and safe. Now is the time.

About 99% of the people who ultimately die from COVID-19 in this country are unvaccinated. This is a preventable tragedy.

Emerging variants are making this virus even worse and deadlier for children, and pediatric hospitalizations are rising across the country. But every variant of this virus that’s emerged remains susceptible to the free, safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.

Healthcare workers and you have the responsibility to do everything we can to stop this pandemic. We are pleading with you: please trust us as we guide you to do what’s best for you and our country and get vaccinated right away. To find a location to get vaccinated visit ​​

St. Joe’s Oakland Partners with Community Organizations to Provide Vaccine Access to Vulnerable Populations

OAKLAND – A key challenge in distributing COVID-19 vaccines is ensuring that the most vulnerable in our community have adequate access. Some may be interested in the vaccine, but do not have transportation to a clinic. Others simply do not know how to sign up for the vaccine, or do not have a computer to search for appointments.

To help reach these vulnerable populations, St. Joseph Mercy Oakland has partnered with several community organizations, including Lighthouse Oakland County, Forgotten Harvest, Freedom Road Transportation, and Faith Community Nursing.

On April 5, 2021, St. Joe’s Oakland hosted a COVID-19 vaccine clinic for vulnerable populations, and distributed nonperishable food from Forgotten Harvest to participants. SJMO’s Community Health and Wellbeing team was able to pre-register 95 individuals. SJMO also partnered with Freedom Road Transportation to provide transportation at no cost to attendees.

“We serve seniors, people with disabilities, and low income populations,” said Karen Boice, Executive Director of Freedom Road Transportation.  “These are people that have no access to public transportation or are unable to use it.  Our program is provided at no cost.  It’s important because people who are isolated, disabled or senior need access to transportation so that they can be social, access basic needs and stay healthy.”

SJMO held a second vaccine clinic on May 3 at Mercy Place.  Again, participants received a free box of non-perishable food and transportation assistance as needed.  Roughly 55 individuals were served at this clinic with a high turnout from the local Hispanic community.  Second dose vaccines of Moderna were distributed June 2 at Mercy Place Clinic.  St. Joe’s Oakland is now also accepting walk-ins for COVID-19 vaccines from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on days the clinic is open.

Helping vulnerable populations get access to vaccines is crucial, as these groups face higher risks of complications or death if they contract COVID-19.  St. Joe’s Oakland is proud to work with local partners to help address the needs of the most vulnerable in our community, and is excited to continue these efforts.

Guidance for Those Who are Fully Vaccinated Against COVID-19

COVID-19 vaccines are effective at protecting you from getting sick. As more of us become fully vaccinated against COVID-19, CDC guidance advises fully vaccinated people can start to do some things they had stopped doing. People are considered fully vaccinated:  

Two weeks after their second dose in a two-dose series, such as the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or
Two weeks after a single-dose vaccine, such as Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine  

Here’s what you can start doing if you’re fully vaccinated:  

You can gather indoors with fully vaccinated people without wearing a mask.

You can gather indoors with unvaccinated people from one other household (for example, visiting with relatives who all live together) without masks, unless any of those people or anyone they live with has an increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

If you’ve been around someone who has COVID-19, you do not need to stay away from others or get tested unless you have symptoms. (However, if you live in a group setting and are around someone who has COVID-19, you should still stay away from others for 14 days and get tested, even if you don’t have symptoms.)  

5 Tips to Keep Kids Safe when Returning to Sports

1. Ease kids back into physical activity gradually before the sport season starts

Kids have been spending a lot more time at home and sitting at computers for school than in regular years. Relative inactivity leads to decreased cardiorespiratory fitness, muscle strength and endurance and loss of sport-specific skills. Parents should know, that increasing the load and demand on their child’s body without adequate time for conditioning and recovery, raises the risk of injury.

Before they start sports, all kids should have a pre-participation physical exam. At this pre-participation physical exam, ask the medical provider to discuss with you and your child a schedule to guide a gradual increase in activity. Children should return to sports at 25 to 50% of the volume and intensity at which they participated previously. Each week, volume should be increased by 10% so that, by 4-6 weeks, the student athlete is back in performance shape.

“I’ve been seeing a lot of sports injuries due to the rapid escalation of sports intensity. We can prevent these injuries.” said, Dr. Corey Dean, Pediatrician and Sports Medicine Specialist at St. Joe’s and IHA.

  1. Be COVID-19 safe during practice and games

In March, 2021, the spread of COVID-19 has risen 105% among persons aged 10 to 19 in Michigan. Additionally, there are 135 identified outbreaks among minors participating in school and club sports in Michigan.

To prevent COVID-19 during sports participation, athletes should maintain physical distance as much as possible. Wear cloth face coverings at all times during group training and competition, especially on the sideline, in dugouts, and during team chats. Due to possible safety concerns, masks can be removed while participating in some sports, such as water sports, gymnastics and wrestling. However, a mask should still be worn when the athlete is not actively engaged in competition or is on the sidelines.

All kids with a history of a positive COVID-19 test, regardless of whether they had symptoms, should be screened for chest pain, shortness of breath, syncope (fainting), and palpitations during a physical exam by there primary care physician. Children who have had moderate or severe symptoms of COVID-19, like fever greater than three days, hypoxia needing oxygen in the hospital, etc. should be referred to a cardiologist per the American Academy of pediatricians.

Avoid behaviors like huddles, high-fives, fist bumps, handshakes, sharing food or drink with teammates, cheering, chanting, or spitting. Store personal equipment 6 to 8 feet away from other teammates equipment. Make sure to bring your own water bottle and your own towel to be used only by you. Sanitize hands before and after using shared equipment like balls, bats etc. Do not got to practice or a game if you are not feeling well. Make sure to tell the coach if you’re not feeling well and leave practice or the game as soon as safely possible.

Avoid large group gathering after sporting events or practices. If you do gather after a sporting event or practice, remember to wear your mask, socially distance and don’t share food or drink with others.

3. Clean up after practice and games.

Sanitize with 60% alcohol based hand sanitizer or wash hands for 20 seconds. Be Sure to wash practice clothes and towel thoroughly and replace facemasks. Clean sports equipment and water bottle.

4. Get tested for COVID-19 regularly.

All middle school and high school athletes aged 13 to 19 must be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis as required by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Testing is recommended before any inter-team competition, especially before players come in to close contact with players from outside the local community. Regular testing allows for better understanding of the risk to student athletes and supports contact tracing of COVID-19 cases in sports.

5. Where are the facemasks?

Athletes, coaches and other team personnel must wear a face mask at all times unless participating in a sport in which masks may pose a safety concern (wrestling, water sports, gymnastics, etc.). Face masks must be worn by all individuals while not engaged in active participation. Facemasks must cover the nose and the mouth at all times to be fully protective. Any cloth face covering that becomes saturated with sweat or water should be changed immediately. Having a back up cloth mask is helpful. You are your child’s best advocate. If you see other athletes or coaches not wearing masks or wearing masks improperly speak up and kindly remind them to wear a mask or make sure their mask is properly covering their mouth and nose. Parents and spectators should always wear a facemask while at sporting events. Wearing masks minimizes the spread of COVID-19 and is critical for safe participation in sports.

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Local Livonia Retiree Thanks SMML Staff After Recovering from COVID-19

Roger Jones and his wife Terri

LIVONIA – Our St. Mary Mercy Livonia family extends its warmest wishes to Roger Jones and his wife Terri. Roger, a local Livonia retiree, was recently discharged home from St. Mary Mercy after being admitted to the hospital on January 18, following complications from COVID-19. 

Following a positive COVID-19 test in late December, Roger had been in isolation at home when his health quickly deteriorated. In fact, as he tells it, he doesn’t have any recollection beyond the ambulance ride to the hospital.

After spending a day on a ventilator in the hospital, Roger’s condition improved, he began breathing on his own again, and he regained consciousness.

“In the beginning, I was scared to death. I remember sitting up in the hospital alone thinking, tonight might be the night I die.”

Fortunately for Roger, his doctors and nurses had other plans for him.

After a slow but steady improvement over two weeks, Roger was transferred to inpatient rehabilitation. For the next 50 days, this is where Roger would eat, sleep and push himself to get stronger.

“Basically couldn’t do anything when I arrived in rehab,” he said. “I couldn’t walk and I could hardly move my arms.”

“My first day there I remember one of the female workers asking me if I could do something for her,” he said. “I told her, ‘I can’t.'”

“She responded by telling me that I needed to get that word out of my vocabulary. It was the best advice I could have ever received.”

“Rehab was wonderful,” he said. “They were very patient and encouraging with me. The encouragement was just as valuable as the actual therapy I received, and it came from everybody.”

While Roger still has much work to do, he has come a long way from those precarious first few days he spent in the hospital.

“God gave me a second chance and I’m not going to mess it up,” he said.

Asked what plans he had for when he returned home, he responded, “I want to see my kids and my grandkids. I have a lot more work to do too.”

Sean’s Recovery Journey: Fighting COVID-19 and a Stroke with Help from St. Joe’s

After 64 days in the hospital recovering from a stroke and COVID-19, Sean received an enthusiastic clap-out from staff, and a warm welcome home from his family.

OAKLAND – Sean McCusker, a 51-year-old husband and father of three from Livonia, has faced immense challenges in the last six months. Diagnosed with both COVID-19 and a stroke at the same time, he lost his ability to walk and speak fluently, and has battled hard to recover. His determination, along with caring staff members and loved ones, have made his recovery possible.

Sean’s journey began in late March, when he first experienced symptoms of COVID-19. After a telemedicine visit with his primary care provider, he was instructed to quarantine at home, as his symptoms were generally mild. He had a low-grade fever, which dissipated after roughly ten days of quarantine. On the thirteenth day of Sean’s quarantine, he was home with his children when he suddenly began to have difficulties speaking and moving his right arm. He was taken by ambulance to St. Mary Mercy Livonia, where staff determined he had suffered a stroke.

Sean was transferred to St. Joseph Mercy Oakland for stroke treatment. While there, he also tested positive for COVID-19. It remains unclear if his stroke and COVID-19 diagnosis were related, though there is some evidence that COVID-19 may increase stroke risk. Sean required ventilation support for a few days, and then moved to the ICU. His wife Marla shared how difficult this time was, as COVID-19 restrictions meant visitors were not allowed: “It was so hard to not be able to see him. The staff was amazing though; they’d put on PPE and hold a phone up to him so we could FaceTime.”

Continue reading “Sean’s Recovery Journey: Fighting COVID-19 and a Stroke with Help from St. Joe’s”

Determined COVID-19 Patient Battles His Way Home

Recovering from COVID-19 can be a long and difficult journey, but a patient’s determination, combined with caring support can make all the difference.  When David Lemble developed a severe cough back in March, he had no idea that he would eventually spend nearly two months on a ventilator, often fighting for every breath.

David and his wife, Tina, knew about COVID and took all the right precautions. When he first developed symptoms, David self-isolated and the family hoped for the best, but after several days, he was having trouble breathing. By March 30, they decided to come to St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor and within 12 hours David was placed on a ventilator.

His wife, Tina, a certified nursing assistant (CNA), clearly understood the seriousness.

“I was scared, but I have faith in God, I also have faith in David and our kids,” said Tina. “Never give up, is the one thing I would tell anyone going through this. We always knew that David was going to get off that ventilator and come home, but it was definitely a roller coaster.”

During the many weeks on the ventilator, David fought and recovered from five separate bouts of pneumonia. He was weaned off the vent for four days, but his lungs weren’t strong enough to breathe on their own.

In addition to the resolute support of his family, David received compassionate care from St. Joe’s medical staff every step of the way.

“I can’t express my gratitude enough for the nurses and all the people who took care of David,” Tina said. “There were so many people who selflessly cared for him. Dr. Eugene Liu was so amazing, he went beyond medical support and was there for all of us emotionally.”

David received leading therapies proven to be effective against coronavirus during his hospital stay. He was among the first to have convalescent plasma infusion, which leverages the antibodies from patients who have successfully beat COVID-19, along with Remdesivir, a drug that’s currently in clinical trials that may help shorten recovery time.

After he was stabilized, the long recovery process included extensive breathing treatments along with cardiac and physical therapy to build up heart, lung and muscle strength after months of severe illness.

“I’m encouraged by how well he’s doing and impressed with how hard David has worked to overcome every challenge,” said Stephen Bloom, DO Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. “His intense determination to get well and the family’s unwavering support are inspiring.”

Over the next several months, Dr. Bloom and the rest of St. Joe’s rehabilitation team will continue working with David to help him return to work at Discount Tire, where he has been employed for over 23 years. During the past two months, the company’s nursing support program has also been assisting the Lemble family, with skilled nurses regularly checking in with Tina to answer questions and provide guidance.

When David finally walked out of St. Joe’s doors on May 27, he was able to see his family face-to-face for the first time in over two months. While happy to return to his loved-ones and home cooked meals, he was overcome with one strong emotion –Gratitude. Before being driven home, he stopped to say: “I appreciate everything that has been done for me. Everyone here has been so kind and helpful to our family. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.”

Open Mic: Call for Songs to Inspire Health Care Workers

Music is good for the soul. Last week we shared a music video of various artists singing St. Joe’s/Mercy Health’s theme song in tribute to the colleagues battling COVID-19 in our communities.

Now it’s your turn! If you have talent to share with fellow colleagues, we invite you to record your own rendition of our theme song. We provide the sheet music and lyrics below. Click on our playlist for examples from local artists.

Email your video or audio file to We will premiere the songs during National Nurses Week and Health Care Week, from May 4-8

We hope it lifts the spirits of frontline workers and everyone doing their part to keep services running while flattening the curve.

You and I Together – Sheet Music

You and I Together – FULL LYRICS

Mercy Primary Care Center Cares for Detroit’s Most Vulnerable During Pandemic

Nurses at Mercy Primary Care Center wear PPE when caring for potential COVID-19 patients.

DETROIT – Much of the focus in the battle against COVID-19 has been on hospitals, with news programs broadcasting images of ventilators and hospital buildings around the clock. However, other health care institutions are playing a role in this fight. Mercy Primary Care Center (MPCC), a Trinity Health safety net ministry, is located in eastern Detroit. MPCC provides care for the city’s poor and most vulnerable, and remains one of the only free clinics still open in the area during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MPCC’s Services and Patient Population

MPCC first opened its doors in 2000, when Trinity Health and the Sisters of Mercy decided to convert a closed hospital into a ministry for vulnerable patients in Detroit. According to MPCC’s Director of Medical Services of the Detroit Market, Tawana Nettles-Robinson, the center provides health care services, labs, prescription assistance, educational and exercise classes, behavioral health services, care coordination, and transportation. In addition, MPCC sponsors the “Special Personal Assistants” program, which provides resources to individuals experiencing homelessness to help get them back on track.

For its first fifteen years, the center operated solely as a free clinic, providing qualifying patients with comprehensive care at no cost. After the Affordable Care Act was passed, MPCC also began accepting Medicaid plans and some commercial plans. However, 25 to 30 percent of patients are still uninsured, and MPCC treats them at no charge. To care for these patients, the center relies on a number of funding sources, including a grant from Trinity Health, Medicaid reimbursements, and outside donations.

MPCC’s Efforts Against COVID-19

Susan, a Mercy Primary Care Center colleague, strikes a pose in PPE.

Since the advent of COVID-19, operations at MPCC have changed significantly. The center offers COVID-19 screening and testing for patients, who are now coming in more ill than usual. MPCC’s patient population tends to have comorbidities, which raises their risk of COVID-19 complications. Many new patients have also enrolled with the center so that they can be screened.

To protect patients and colleagues, MPCC has changed its workflows by cordoning off certain areas and providing cloth masks to all patients, with surgical masks given to those with known symptoms. In addition, potential COVID-19 patients are asked to call the front desk to register, or to register in the exam room. MPCC is now also offering telehealth visits to help limit flow into the office.

Martin, another MPCC colleague, wears a face shield donated by Operation Face Shield – Downriver.

MPCC faces many of the same challenges as our hospitals in the fight against COVID-19. According to Nettles-Robinson, the center is working hard to ensure there is enough personal protective equipment (PPE) and testing kits, but these can be hard to obtain. Like our hospital colleagues, the staff has also faced challenges, with some facing illness and all handling the realities of life in a pandemic. Despite these issues, the team continues to work hard to care for their patients.

MPCC’s work is vital to the community, especially now, when many other free clinics in the area have closed due to COVID-19. Nettles-Robinson shared, “The staff remains dedicated to serving individuals in under-resourced communities… [and] is doing everything we can to continue our health ministry. I believe we will come out of this stronger and more connected to the community as a whole. It’s only because of the commitment of Trinity to maintain its service to the poor that we can stay operational when other free clinics have temporarily closed their doors.”

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