Three pediatricians from Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters provided Norfolk Academy parents with information about the evolving Covid-19 pandemic and vaccines available to combat the disease during a webinar on August 5.
The webinar was for Upper and Middle School parents, as their children are in the age range eligible for Covid vaccines. The main message from Drs. Fred Fink '73, Paige Frazer '89, and Dana Ramirez: Vaccines are safe and effective.
“Bottom line, if you haven’t been vaccinated, we urge you to get vaccinated and to get your children vaccinated," Dr. Fink said. “We are doing it in our pediatric offices — authorized to give it to adults, children, grandparents, neighbors."
Norfolk Academy is planning to open its academic year August 25, with protocols in place to keep the school community safe. Task forces that include many medical experts have been guiding NA's decisions since the worldwide pandemic began in early 2020.
“Our goal is to safeguard and protect the community," Headmaster Dennis Manning said.
Last school year, safety measures included regular Covid testing of students, faculty, and staff; air purifiers in classrooms; dining outdoors; mask wearing; and social distancing. While many of the same measures will be in place this year, the pediatricians emphasized that encouraging vaccinations is another valuable protective measure.
Vaccines currently are available to everyone ages 12 and older (Pfizer is the only one available for children 12-18). But a good way to protect younger students who cannot yet be vaccinated is to surround them with those who are vaccinated, Dr. Ramirez said. Norfolk Academy offered vaccination clinics on campus in the spring, and many students signed up. All faculty have been vaccinated.
Since there are concerns worldwide about the vaccines, Dr. Ramirez went into detail on how they were created and why she said they can be trusted.
The Covid vaccines - current ones come from Moderna, Pfizer, and Johnson & Johnson - all either deliver or cause the body to make spike proteins. Such proteins exist on the outside edge of the virus.
And while the Covid vaccines did come together relatively quickly, they were not the fastest ever rolled out to the public. No stages of testing were skipped. And the technology used is not new - it has been in existence for more than 20 years.
Dr. Ramirez offered some clear bottom lines based on current scientific evidence: Covid vaccines cannot cause the recipient to become sick with the disease; there is no evidence that they alter fertility in men and women; and they've been shown to be effective even against variants that have emerged thus far.
This summer, the Delta variant has become the dominant strain in the United States. Those infected can carry 1,000 times more viral load in their nose and throat as compared with the original strain, making it more contagious and potentially harmful. Research has shown the variant is less likely to infect a vaccinated person, Dr. Ramirez said, though vaccinated people can transmit the disease.
Vaccines are about 85% effective against Delta variant, Dr. Ramirez said. Furthermore, 99% of Covid deaths now are among the unvaccinated—if you are vaccinated, you are unlikely to have serious illness or death. “We know vaccines prevent disease," Dr. Ramirez said.
Parents were able to ask questions during the webinar. One asked how anyone can be certain there will be no adverse, long-term reactions in children, given that these vaccines are so new. Dr. Fink explained that these types of vaccines have been in the works for more than 20 years, and research has shown them to be safe and effective on a long-term basis. Most adverse reactions happen in a short-term period—months, not years, he added.
To watch the presentation: https://youtu.be/euyTdVqaQ_U