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State Public Health Leader Encourages Vaccination and Outlines Simple Steps to Stay Healthy this Winter 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: New vaccines for COVID, RSV and flu are now available. Californians need to prepare now for winter viruses by getting vaccinated for respiratory infections and taking simple prevention steps to stay healthy. 

CVV News l October 26, 2023

SACRAMENTO – With Halloween, holiday gatherings and winter fast approaching, state public health leaders today reminded Californians that a few simple steps can help keep the whole family healthy this winter. In a briefing with the media, Dr. Tomás J. Aragón, CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer, noted that now is the time to start preparing for cold and flu season by getting vaccinated to reduce the risk of getting seriously ill from the flu, COVID-19 and RSV. It’s also time to remember tried-and-true prevention measures, including frequent hand washing, wearing a mask if sick or when around other people indoors, and staying home when sick, that help slow the spread of many viruses. 

“As more people are heading indoors for school, fitness routines, and festive gatherings, Californians are getting exposed to respiratory viruses,” said Dr. Aragón. “Anyone can be affected by winter illnesses, however, some individuals, including older adults, people with weakened immune systems or chronic conditions, pregnant people and young children are at higher risk for severe illness and death. If you are at higher risk, or have loved ones who are, check with your health care provider now to find out which vaccinations are right for you. It’s important we all do our part by getting vaccinated and taking simple prevention steps so we can all enjoy time with friends and family.” 

RECOMMENDED VACCINES: The best time to get immunized is now, before viruses start to spread. CDPH recommends all individuals remain up to date on vaccines to prevent serious illness and to limit the spread of viruses.  

  • Flu: Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine annually, ideally before the end of October. 
  • COVID-19: Everyone 6 months and older should get the newly updated COVID-19 vaccine.  
  • RSV: Adults 60 years of age and older should talk to their health care provider about getting an RSV vaccine as soon as it is available in their community. It is also recommended that pregnant persons between 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy receive the vaccine between September and January. Additional immunization options are available to protect all infants 8 months and younger and high-risk children between 8 – 19 months. 

With all immunizations, CDPH encourages individuals to check with their health care provider to determine which are available for them and their families.  

WHERE TO GET VACCINATED: Flu, COVID-19, and RSV vaccines can all be administered during the same visit. Schedule a vaccine appointment by visiting or contacting your local pharmacy or health care provider. 
COST: Those having difficulty obtaining vaccines can contact their health care provider or local health department for help finding a place to get immunized. COVID-19 and flu vaccines will continue to be free for most people through their health insurance plans, including Medi-Cal and regular healthcare providers. 
The CDC’s Bridge Access Program will provide COVID-19 vaccines to uninsured and underinsured adults through December 2024. The Vaccines For Children (VFC) program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children (18 and younger) who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay. 
VIRUS PREVENTION: The best defense against winter viruses starts with good prevention. Follow these simple tips to protect yourself and others:  

  • Stay Up to Date on Vaccines: Vaccines are the best defense against severe illness and death.  
  • Stay Home if You’re Sick: Staying home when you’re sick slows the spread of flu, RSV, COVID-19, and even the common cold. 
  • Test and Treat: Test for COVID-19 and flu if you have symptoms (like fever, cold, cough, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, stomach issues). If you test positive, contact your health care provider, and ask about medications. Medications work best when started right after symptoms begin. Learn more about COVID-19 treatments and flu treatments. 
  • Consider Wearing a High-quality Mask (N95, KN95, KF94) in Indoor Public Places: Wearing a mask significantly reduces the spread of respiratory viruses, especially in crowded or poorly ventilated spaces. 
  • Wash Your Hands: Wash hands throughout the day with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. 
  • Cover Your Cough or Sneeze: Remember to cough or sneeze into your elbow, your arm, or a disposable tissue to help prevent the spread of viruses. Wash or sanitize your hands and dispose of your tissue after.

Cautious Parents Weigh Decision to Give Children Under Five COVID Vaccine

Edward Henderson | California Black Media-Posted: June 27, 2022

Antonio and Tenaja Kizzie, a San Diego area couple, are parents of a three-year-old daughter. Although both parents are vaccinated and boosted, the Kizzies have reservations about giving their toddler the COVID-19 vaccine the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended last week for children younger than five years old.

“It’s one thing to feel like her body is still developing and growing. She’s been vaccinated for everything else for things that have been around for years. It’s a little scary thinking about something that’s new. We don’t want to jump in right now,” Tenaja told California Black Media. “We just want to wait a little bit and see the side effects for other kids in her age group and reassess from there.”

Her husband chimed in.

“We believe in the science, we believe vaccines works, but when it comes to the under-fives, just being a parent we’re a bit more hesitant to give her the vaccine so far. We’re waiting to see how it goes with other under 5 kids that get the vaccine. Even though science and logic say yes, as a new parent you’re extra cautious,” Antonio said.

The Kizzies are not alone.

Numbers the CDC released at the end of May indicate that hesitancy about vaccinating their children is high among parents across the country. Although the U.S. Food and Drug administration approved COVID vaccines for children between the ages of 5 and 11 last October, only about 30% of kids in that age range have received the shot.

“For those families that are hesitant and questioning, I try to understand what their fears and questions are. I try to remind them that we are in this together. I care about the health and wellbeing of their children, and I will always suggest the best possible course for them,” said Dr. Jennifer Miller, a pediatrician with East Bay Pediatrics, a medical practice with offices in Berkeley and Orinda.

Miller was speaking during a medical panel co-hosted by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and Ethnic Media Services (EMS). The discussion was held to offer information about vaccinating children 6 moths to 4 years old against COVID-19 to parents, caregivers and the media.

“I let them know that ultimately it is their decision to make, and I am here as a resource,” Millar added. “It is normal to be afraid of the unknown and to want to protect your child. With that in mind, vaccination is the best protection around.”

The US Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of COVID-19 vaccines made by Moderna, Pfizer and BioNTech earlier this month. The agency’s approval came on the heels of news that COVID-19 is now the fifth leading cause of death in children 1-4 years old and the fourth leading cause of death for children younger than one.

“These are sobering statistics for all of us,” said Sandy Close, EMS director and moderator of the news briefing. “Vaccination is an important tool to protect their long-term health against COVID-19 and helps achieve full family protection against this deadly virus.”

Panelists said it is a myth that COVID does not affect children. The CDC reports that one in five hospitalized children end up in the ICU. And during the omicron surge, children were hospitalized five times more than in the Delta surge.

“There is definitely still a need for vaccinations for the whole population,” said Dr. Lucia Abascal, a physician and researcher at CDPH. “There is this idea that omicron is milder, but if we look at children’s data in this age group, we can actually see that hospitalizations peaked as well as deaths. We have more and more evidence that kids are at an acute risk of COVID.”

Abascal detailed the steps of the vaccine approval process at the state and federal levels. An independent expert panel reviewed the data that Moderna and Pfizer provided and unanimously voted that the FDA approve the vaccine. The CDC was the final step of approval for the vaccine at the federal level.

Before California recommends any COVID vaccine, it is reviewed by The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, a commission comprised of medical professionals and scientists convened by Washington, Oregon, Nevada and California.

Children three years old and above will be eligible to receive vaccines at pharmacies. However, children under three will need to get vaccinated at a pediatrician’s office or a community clinic.

California has purchased enough vaccinations for every child in the state. The first shipment of 500,000 doses will arrive next week. About 2.2 million children are eligible for vaccination in California.

The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose regimen like the adult shot, with a one-month wait between doses. The Pfizer vaccine requires three doses. The first dose is followed by the second 21 days later and the final dose comes 60 days after that.

Authorities familiar with the vaccine trials say the side effects of minor fever and pain at the injection site may be stronger for children who receive the Moderna shot.

Dr. Sarah Takekawa, an Obstetrician-Gynecologist, who is currently raising three children under age five was also a panelist.

Takekawa spoke to some of the concerns pregnant woman may have.

Takekawa said she was fully vaccinated before conceiving her third child. She received her booster while pregnant.

“I have seen firsthand what COVID-19 infection can do to otherwise extremely healthy young women during their pregnancies. Watching adults who are otherwise healthy succumb to the disease, it seems easy to us to make this decision about wanting to get vaccinated and encouraging other parents to have their children vaccinated.

Visit Vaccinate All 58 to learn more about the safe and effective vaccines available for all children in California aged 6 months and older.

Inland Valley News coverage of local news in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support minority-owned-and-operated community newspapers across California.

Central Valley Voice
Central Valley Voice
Felicia Roberts took an idea gathered a few people to reached into a minority community to highlight the positive, using a minority newspaper the Central Valley Voice. Roberts was joined by her sisters Carolyn Williams, Alleashia Thomas, niece Hermonie Lynn Williams, nephew Ron Williams, cousin Jerald Lester, Jay Slaffey, Greg Savage, Tim Daniels and the late J Denise Fontaine. Each individual played an important role in the birth of the newspapers. Since, then many have stood strong behind the success of the newspapers and its goal to fill a void in the Central Valley community The Central Valley Voice published their 1st issue in November 1991. Its purposed was to highlight the achievements of minorities in the Central Valley. The Voice focuses on the accomplishments of African Americans and Hispanics giving young people role models while diminishing the stereotypical pictures of gangs, crime and violence that permeate the minority communities. Since 1991, the Central Valley Voice has provided an important voice for the minority community throughout the Madera, Merced. Stanislaus and San Joaquin counties.

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