Talking about the COVID-19 Vaccines with Staff

Hello and happy April 2021! Today, I am writing with some tips on discussing vaccines with staff and a couple of FAQs about vaccines for kids age 12-15.

Vaccine Discussions
Many of us are having conversations with our staff or potential staff about being vaccinated for camp. Even though many of us are not making vaccination for COVID-19 “mandatory,” we feel that being vaccinated for camp is consistent with our health programming in plans for the Summer 2021 and is therefore a priority. Additionally we know that some international counselors may not have access to a vaccine prior to coming to the US. But how should we speak to those who are demonstrating some hesitancy? Where should we direct them for more information?

First, and foremost, I think it is important for counselors to understand that they will be working in an unvaccinated community. Because children will not have access to vaccines, the Camp community will not reach the levels of immunity necessary to stop transmission should COVID enter camp. Prevailing to the care and keeping of children may be an effective turning point for counselor decision making.

Secondly, vaccinated individuals will have freedoms that unvaccinated individuals or not. While not entirely clear yet what behaviors will be allowed or not allowed, we can be certain that being vaccinated will provide greater freedom to gathering on and leaving camp for days off. Appealing to these personal freedoms may encourage some to become vaccinated.

Third, some people of color (BIPOC) are hesitant for understandable reasons. Increasingly, community voices are raising confidence in taking the COVID-19 vaccine by discussing diversity of participation in the research trials, the toll that COVID-19 has taken on BIPOC communities or the science of the vaccine. It is important to educate ourselves to improve our understanding of historical context of racism and distrust as a key reason for hesitancy. I found this video from the Round Table on Black Men and Black Women in Science, Engineering & Medicine was filled with important voices and insights.

Lastly, it is important for each of us to share our stories of vaccination and why we got vaccinated. Stories like I got vaccinated so I can run camp, hug my mother or ride on a plane are important for us to share with one another.

Giving people reasons to get vaccinated can play a big role in helping move people along the continuum from hesitant to accepting! The Camp community at large can play an important role as there could be no better reason than so we can all attend camp!

April 12, 2021 Vaccine FAQs
Pfizer submitted 12 and older vaccine data to the FDA last Friday. When will kids get access to shots?
• It’s terrific news that Pfizer has submitted it to the FDA as the first step to the long road to getting our nation’s youth vaccinated. It took the FDA 2 to 3 weeks to review the prior vaccine data for Pfizer, Moderna and J&J, and if this timeline holds true, it will be the first week of May prior to getting Emergency Use Authorization for this vaccine age group. Next, states need to add children 12 and up to their eligibility criteria; this could take a matter of days or weeks. Next, vaccine needs to make its way from the federal stockpile to states to vaccine clinics, where children need to sign up and get vaccinated. Lastly, children who are vaccinated will need three weeks between doses. Given this timeframe, you can understand why I am skeptical that children ages 12 and up will have been fully vaccinated prior to coming to camp, although the second session campers may be able to be fully vaccinated.

Parents are asking me about what will happen if their child is vaccinated or receives one vaccine dose. What should I tell them?
• A more common scenario will be campers will have had one vaccine prior camp attendance. There are at least three considerations about this scenario.
1. While the FDA has not released the full Pfizer data yet for review, it is likely that a significant degree of immunity can be achieved in 12 to 15 year olds with a single shot.
2. It is not yet clear if children will have the same windows of second shot availability that have been established in the adult population. Currently, if an adult misses the 3 week window for the second Pfizer shot, practice is to give the shot as soon as possible, and consider that person fully vaccinated after two weeks. Time and data will tell us if this is delay between two shots creates acceptable immunity.
3. Parents may ask if Camp can vaccinate or arrange a second COVID-19 vaccine for campers. Becoming a vaccination center is beyond the scope of camp services and time will tell if the state of Maine (or your state) will expand vaccine eligibility to beyond state residence. So at this time we cannot commit to this possibility for parents. Parents should discuss concerns and questions with their primary care provider.

I heard you can’t get any other shots around the COVID vaccine, is this true?
• Yes! We should be communicating with parents that current recommendations for the COVID vaccine are that the person should have received no other vaccines within two weeks of the COVID vaccine. As many children have been delaying care and or immunizations during the pandemic, we want to make sure the parents understand that they should get up-to-date on vaccines now so if the COVID vaccine becomes a possibility, their child will be eligible.