This spring marks a full year of the COVID-19 pandemic in the USA. There are now 3 vaccines authorized by the FDA for emergency use in the fight against this viral infection. School teachers and other school staff members have been prioritized to get the vaccines so that the schools can re-open safely for them. Clinical trials have started to assess the vaccines’ effectiveness and safety in children 6 months to 11 years. Pfizer has just announced that its trial in children 12 years and older has demonstrated 100% effectiveness in preventing the infection. FDA will likely approve its use for this age group in the near future. We are not sure when, but we will notify our patients via MyChart as soon as the vaccines are shipped to our office.
Locally, many schools will be holding classes full-time on site in April. As children have not yet been vaccinated, there is a concern that there will be an increase in infection as a result of this reopening. If everyone continues to wear mask and keep physically distant at school and other public places, then the chance of getting infected will be reduced. This past winter season we have rarely seen any cases of influenza. We also have seen very few cases of asthma, Strep throat infections and ear infections. These reductions can all be attributed to mask wearing and physical distancing. Therefore, I would echo CDC’s recommendations for people to continue to wear masks in public places, even for those who have been vaccinated against SARS-COV2.
Despite the great scientific breakthroughs over the past two decades behind the making of the mRNA and DNA vaccines for COVID-19, and despite the clinical trial data that have demonstrated safety and efficacy in over 100,000 subjects combined for the 3 approved vaccines, there are still doubters on the safety and efficacy of the vaccines. Somehow the fear of the “newness” of the vaccines seems greater than the fear of the known dangers of the virus for these people. If anything has been demonstrated by this pandemic, it is that we humans are social creatures and we need to protect each other if we are to survive this pandemic together. To those who are still hesitant about the vaccine, I encourage them to get it to protect themselves and to protect others around them.
School shutdowns, loss of work, reduced income, food/shelter insecurity, and lives lost as a result of the pandemic have led to an increase in the number of people (children and adults alike) with feelings of isolation, anxiety, and depression. We are using screening tools for depression/anxiety and food/shelter insecurity in our practice at annual well visits. We strongly recommend our patients and parents to complete these screens prior to the visit via MyChart, the patient portal online, so that there could be more time during the visit to discuss any concerns. I encourage you, our patients and parents, to trust us to help you, because helping people is our calling.
Boston Children’s Hospital and Pediatric Physicians Organization at Children’s (PPOC) are conducting a study to determine which screening tools for substance abuse work well in adolescents. Our practice is a member of the PPOC and we will send an invitation in a separate email through MyChart to the adolescents of our practice to participate in this study. This is a paid study, and your participation is entirely voluntary.
You may have noticed that MyChart is mentioned in this newsletter multiple times, because it is a great way for patients to see their own medical record, such as medications, allergies, vaccinations, and lab test results. It is another way of communication between patients and physicians. Now patients can also read most of the written notes. Patients may even request changes to the records, such as a food allergy or a medication that is no longer relevant. We need that feedback. That is why we encourage everyone to sign up for MyChart access. We welcome any positive or negative comments as we strive to serve you better and optimize your health.