KANSAS CITY, Mo. — When Michelle Suwareh – a mother to four girls – heard that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine is 100% effective in children 12-15, she felt hope.
“You know it is definitely something I would want to look into for them," Suwareh said of vaccinating her 14- and 15-year-old daughters against the novel coronavirus. "Talking with her primary care first - but I mean, yeah.”
Her other daughters are 5 and 16. The girls – Evadean, Ashley, Kate and Fatima – only recently returned to in-person learning full-time, and one of them has asthma.
"I think just in my conversations and the relief that I had when I got mine - the fact that they can also feel some of that relief too,” Suwareh said.
That had been a concern throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as during flu season, Suwareh said.
Angela Myers, director of infectious diseases at Children's Mercy, said there have been about 270 deaths nationwide from COVID-19 in children.
"That’s quite a bit more than what we see from influenza every year, which is between 100 and 150 in children," Myers said.
With the vaccine expanding to older youth with chronic conditions, Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City hopes to target another population with its upcoming clinics for those ranging from 16 to 21 years old.
“We are targeting ethnic minorities who may not have the availability to get the vaccine as easily,” said Myers, who hopes more children who are in need can find an open slot before the state opens vaccine eligibility to all children as young as 16 – even healthy ones.
The more children who are vaccinated, the more likely it will be for them to return to activities "they want to get back to," according to Myers.
“We want to get back to prom, we want to get back to graduation, we want all kids in school," she said, "and the more we can do, the more vaccine we can provide, the better-abled we are to do all those things.“
Dr. Ryan McDonough, Children’s Mercy Hospital’s vaccine clinic lead, said watching children "suffer through having to withdraw from school" and not be around family and friends takes an emotional toll.
“We really want our patients to get back to real life," McDonough said.
While research into vaccinating children between ages 12 and 15 continues, Myers said Wednesday’s news from Pfizer is “very exciting.”
Suwareh, the mother of four, said she wants her girls to be around their grandparents, "move around freely and maybe not have to wear a mask at some point.“
For those who might doubt Pfizer's efficacy data, Myers said other vaccines, such as tetanus, also are 100% effective.
"It prevents tetanus 100% of the time when you get all the doses," she said.
Children’s Mercy has about 400 doses for each of their three upcoming clinics:
2 – 8 p.m., April 1 at Adele Hall Campus
- This clinic will be open to individuals who are 16 - 22 years old, Missouri residents and meet one of these two criteria:
- Identify as a member of a racial/ethnic minority.
- Diagnosed with a chronic disease:
- Chronic kidney disease.
- Heart conditions.
- Weakened immune system due to organ transplant.
- Severe obesity (BMI >40).
- Sickle cell disease.
- Type 2 diabetes mellitus.
- Individuals with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities such as Down syndrome.
8 a.m. - 2 p.m., April 3 at Children’s Mercy Hospital Kansas
- This clinic will be open to individuals who are 16 - 22 years old and Kansas residents.
8 a.m. - 2 p.m., April 10, at Adele Hall Campus
- This clinic will be open to individuals who are 16 - 22 years old and Missouri residents.
To schedule an appointment, their Outreach Center can be reached at 816-234-3700.