Ochsner Docs: Teen Immunizations Important for Entire Community

NEW ORLEANS – Ochsner Health and Ochsner Hospital for Children hosted a media event today to explain why it’s important for tweens and teens ages 12-15 to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. William Lennarz, Ochsner’s system chair of pediatrics, said the benefits of the vaccine far outweigh the risks for an individual teenager. More important, “children and teenagers, just like adults, are capable of transmitting the infection, so as a part of a whole community, children need to be part of the solution in tamping down infection and spread,” he said. 

Lennarz said a child’s risk of getting serious disease or dying from COVID-19 are “quite a bit lower than an adult but we don’t want parents to think that children aren’t at any risk when they get COVID. In fact, here at Ochsner, we continue to care for dozens of children who have had more serious effects including multi-system inflammatory syndrome.”

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Ultimately, said Lennarz, it’s really important for the individual teenager to be immunized and it’s important from an epidemiology standpoint to protect the entire community.

Dr. Katherine Baumgarten, Ochsner’s medical director of infection control and prevention, said Ochsner participated in a clinical trial and found that the vaccine’s side effects are minimal – and similar to what an adult would experience. 

“The most common side effect reported was arm pain,” she said. “There was reported fever and some chills, some fatigue and headache. Those were all common side effects as children mounted immune response to the vaccine. And all of these were similar to adults. … Overall it’s very encouraging to see that the safety profile for adolescents [is similar to] adults.”

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An Ochsner spokesperson said the health system is waiting for the green light from the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which is scheduled to meet later today (Wednesday, May 12), before administering the vaccines to kids age 12-15.  Following CDC approval, Ochsner anticipates Louisiana will adopt the CDC and FDA guidance later this week. Then scheduling will begin.

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