Currently, Maine is slowly burning with COVID-19 cases. Our hospitals are full, schools are closing and most citizens are, quite reasonably, choosing to limit their activities to protect themselves and others. The measures Maine took during the first 18 months of the pandemic largely protected its residents. Now, the Delta variant is attacking, leaving more Maine people vulnerable.
More contagious and more likely than the original virus to lead to hospitalization, the Delta variant poses an increased risk, especially among the young, the immune-suppressed, the elderly and the unvaccinated. If we do not take strong action to protect ourselves and our community, we are choosing to continue this path for many more months, probably with a devastating surge as winter and the holidays arrive.
The availability of an effective and safe COVID-19 vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds is an important step toward controlling the spread of COVID-19, protecting our kids and keeping our schools open. Millions of adolescents and more than 3,000 younger children have received the vaccine in trials and clinical use. Side effects other than a sore arm, fatigue and headache have been rare. The vaccine is more than 90 percent effective at preventing both mild and severe disease. This means it will help keep your child healthy and keep them from infecting others, especially their family and loved ones.
COVID-19 deaths are less common in 5- to 11-year-olds than other age groups, but Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (shock, organ failure and cardiac damage) is more common in this age range. Unlike other COVID-19 complications, this occurs primarily in previously healthy children. Additionally, children are at risk for severe breathing problems and hospitalization, primarily among overweight or children with prior medical issues. Children under 5 are at greater risk for major problems since there is no vaccine yet for this age group. Their protection comes from their brothers, sisters and parents being vaccinated.
Myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) has been raised as a rare side effect of the COVID-19 vaccine in teenagers, though it is both less common and less severe than the myocarditis that sometimes follows COVID-19 infection. Generally, myocarditis is less frequent in elementary-age children than adolescents and has not yet been seen in the vaccine trials for younger age groups.
As COVID-19 cases continue to their slow burn across our state, we urge you to take all steps available to care for yourself, your loved ones and your community:
- Vaccinate your children ages 5-17 as soon as possible.
- Get vaccinated if you are not yet vaccinated.
- If you are due for a booster, get one; boosters have been shown to markedly decrease Delta variant transmission.
- Always wear a mask in shared indoor airspaces until community transmission falls to low levels.
- Avoid going into buildings where many are unmasked; if you must enter, wear the best-fitted mask you have and minimize your time there.
Mount Desert Island Hospital has partnered with our local school system to offer three large-scale vaccination clinics for children ages 5 and above. Vaccination for everyone aged 5 and above and booster shots for those eligible are available by appointment at our health center vaccination sites. Vaccines and booster shots are also offered at most local pharmacies and healthcare providers. If you have questions about COVID-19 vaccines, booster shots or other prevention measures, please talk to your care provider.
J.R. Krevans Jr., M.D.
Chair of Infection Control
Tanya Hanke, D.O.
Community Health Center medical director
Mark Kandutsch, M.D.
Health Centers medical director