COVID-19 vaccines & updates moving into the new school year

Information changes frequently when it comes to the COVID-19 virus, but what we do know is that it is here to stay. 

According to Midland County Medical Director, Dr. Catherine Bodnar, what has not waivered is that vaccines work. The vaccinations may wane over time, but Bodnar says, staying up to date on vaccinations and boosters are the only way to prevent severe illness and hospitalization.
Dr. Catherine Bodnar is the Medical Director for the Midland County Department of Public Health.
There are many vaccine clinics coming up including a Back to School clinic on August 18th from 10 a.m.- 4:30 p.m. Walk-ins are available. A vaccine clinic will also be held at the fairgrounds during the Midland County Fair on August 16,17, and 18 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on a walk-in basis.

The Midland County Department of Public Health also will host vaccination clinics on Tuesdays from 10a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Appointments are preferred, but walk-ins accepted. Call 989-832-6665 to schedule or for more information.

Bodnar encourages children to become vaccinated before school begins. She anticipates that once classes start, when the weather begins to cool and people stay indoors more, cases will rise again, “I don’t have a crystal ball. COVID-19 has had an impact on other infectious diseases. The 2021-2022 flu season was prolonged. It began around Thanksgiving and there were spikes in some areas into June. Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) typically peaks in the fall and declines by early spring. There will likely be impacts on respiratory diseases frequency and timing at least in the near future. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is preparing for a COVID-19 surge for late fall 2022.”
  
She says children and teens will be exposed to COVID-19 at some point. The vaccines help prevent kids from getting severely ill, further reduce the small risk of hospitalization and death, and protect them from long-term complications. The COVID-19 vaccine is not just for children and teens with underlying conditions. Almost half of children younger than 18 years old hospitalized with COVID-19 have no underlying conditions. Children who have underlying medical conditions or have a weakened immune system are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19. These underlying medical conditions include asthma or chronic lung disease, diabetes, and obesity.     

Vaccines provide protection against severe illness and the potential of having to be admitted into the hospital.
Bodnar says the vaccine continues to be safe for children and that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh known and potential risks. Myocarditis (MIS-C) is a very rare potential side effect of mRNA vaccines that can be treated with rest or medication. The chances of myocarditis are much higher if the child/teen becomes ill with COVID-19.

Other reasons to get vaccinated according to Bodnar include concerns about post-COVID or Long COVID symptoms that can affect quality of life, including limitations in physical activity, distress about symptoms, mental health challenges, decreased school or daycare attendance, missed opportunities for participation in sports, play dates or other activities. Bodnar says, “Vaccinations are really effective and help children and teens from missing out on school or sports.”
 
So what does Bodnar expect going into the 2022-23 school year? “It’s about when do we sound the alarm? How do you pay attention to what’s happening without crying wolf,” explains Bodnar when it comes to the numbers and rates of infection. “It’s shifting from case counting to how hospitals are doing. What’s the community level? Cases are high right now in some parts of the country.”

Also, Bodnar notes, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) endorsed the Advisory Committee on Immunization  Practices’ (ACIP) recommendation that all children 6 months through 5 years of age should receive a COVID-19 vaccine. In the US, everyone 6 months old and older are now eligible for vaccination. For more information on vaccines or back to school vaccine clinics in Midland County or to schedule an appointment visit: co.midland.mi.us
 
When asked whether adults and teens who are not immunosuppressed should get the third dose of the vaccine, Bodnar's response is “Yes. Booster doses are highly effective in reducing the risk of Covid-19 hospitalization and death.”  And don't expect the flu shot to be combined with the COVID-19 vaccine any time this year or into early next.  “No. Flu and COVID-19 vaccinations will be administered separately for the 2022-2023 flu season. Research and development is ongoing for a combined flu/COVID-19 vaccine,” says Bodnar.

 

Read more articles by Erika M. Hirschman.

A veteran freelance writer and former reporter with The Midland Daily News, Erika has covered a wide array of topics in and around Midland and Saginaw counties. She’s an award winning reporter, and holds a journalism degree from the University of Detroit-Mercy/Marygrove College. When Erika is not writing, she enjoys dancing in her kitchen with her two dogs and family. She loves to read, cook, travel and go to concerts. She’s lived in Saginaw County for 26 years.