COVID-19 vaccinations expand for babies in Monterey County

SALINAS — Additional COVID-19 vaccines for kids between 6 months and 5 years old have arrived in Monterey County after their availability was limited in the initials days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention first approved the smaller doses for babies and young children.

Doses are now at the ready at Salinas Valley Medical Clinic, the public health bureau and other clinics in the area. Parents and caregivers can get their children 6 months through 5 years of age vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines to protect them from COVID-19. All children, including children who have already had COVID-19, should get vaccinated, said the CDC.

At Wednesday’s Monterey County media briefing, county Health Officer Dr. Edward Moreno said the public health bureau is making the vaccine available to everyone 6 months of age and older. Anyone who would like to book a vaccine appointment with the public health bureau can go to the MyTurn website, he said.

Moreno was not able to say how many doses the Monterey County Health Department has received.

Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System received 600 doses of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday and is distributing it to its Salinas Valley Medical Clinic locations so primary care and pediatric physicians can begin vaccinating infants, toddlers and preschoolers, according to Karina Rusk, Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System spokeswoman.

“We’re seeing more children in the Emergency Department at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital than at any other time throughout the pandemic,” said Dr. Allen Radner, chief medical officer at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System and CEO of Salinas Valley Medical Clinic, in an email. “We’ve had many children with respiratory tract infections and one seriously ill child transferred to Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford for further medical care.”

The CDC reports that of those individuals 5 years of age and older who are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in Monterey County, 87.8% have received at least one dose and 78.9% are fully vaccinated. The agency also reports that 52.7% of the fully vaccinated population in Monterey County 12 years of age and older have received a first booster dose.

The California Department of Public Health reports that from May 30 to June 5, unvaccinated people were 5.2 times more likely to get COVID-19 than people who received their booster dose.

“We know vaccines work incredibly well and despite thousands of people having COVID-19 in Monterey County right now, we’re seeing very few hospitalizations, serious illness or deaths,” said Radner. “That outcome is a result of safe and effective vaccines.”

Radner said that understandably, parents may have questions about the vaccine for young children and the Salinas Valley Healthcare System urges them to talk to their pediatricians or primary care doctors. He said that in addition to the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, all major physician groups along with the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly support vaccinating eligible children for COVID-19.

According to the California Department of Public Health, Monterey County’s COVID-19 seven-day average case rate on Tuesday was 26.4 cases per 100,000, and its test positivity rate was at 11.9%. Last week the state reported the county’s case rate was 24.6, and its test-positivity rate was 11.1%. As of Tuesday, 47 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Monterey County compared to 40 a week ago. Monterey County has 743 confirmed deaths from the virus since the beginning of the pandemic, up one from the previous week.

“We still have a high number of hospitalizations and a higher positivity rate for those that are being tested so that signifies that we still have transmission here in Monterey County,” said Moreno.

The data the health department has available shows that the case rates appear to have leveled off here and in other regions in the state, said Moreno, who added that there might be signs the case rate might actually be starting to decrease but the next couple of weeks will show if that turns out to be the trend.

“There’s always the chance there will be the development of more troubling variants, especially when much of the world hasn’t had access to vaccines, but we’re hoping that won’t happen,” said Radner in the email.

He added that a best-case scenario would be that this will evolve into a viral illness like cold viruses and people won’t get seriously ill. They may stay home from school or work; however, patients won’t be so ill that they will inundate health care systems.

On Tuesday, it was reported that the FDA’s independent advisory committee voted to support recommending inclusion of an omicron-specific component for a COVID-19 booster vaccine.

Two omicron sub-variants, BA.4 and BA.5, are now dominating transmission of the virus in the U.S, according to the CDC.

“We’ve come a long way in two years,” said Radner. “At one point we had 100 COVID patients at Salinas Valley Memorial with 25 of them on ventilators. That’s just not the case today.”

Monterey County’s community level remains at high, according to the CDC. A COVID-19 community level, ranked as low, medium or high, is based on hospital beds being used by patients with COVID-19, new hospital admissions among people with COVID-19, and the total number of new COVID-19 cases in the area. The calculations used by the CDC are from a week to nearly two weeks prior.

Based on Monterey County’s current level, the CDC recommends wearing a mask indoors in public and on public transportation, staying up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccines, getting tested if symptoms arise, and if an individual is at high risk for severe illness, consider taking additional precautions.

Go to mcvaccinate.com to sign up for a COVID-19 vaccination appointment and visit montereycountyvaccines.com/testing-sites to find a testing site.

Contributed by local news sources

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