It’s cold and flu season, and COVID is still around.
Parents can now add RSV, respiratory syncytial virusto your list of concerns.
Vaccines are available for influenza and COVID, but not for colds or RSV, although an RSV vaccine is in development.
Columbia/Boone County Public Health and Human Services will hold a flu and COVID-19 vaccination comfort clinic from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday for children ages 6 months to 18 years who are anxious by needles or vaccines. The immunization clinic will be at the health department, 1005 W. Worley St. Appointments are required.
The shots will be in a sensory-friendly setting, said Ryan Sheehan, a spokesman for the health department. The shots will be given in a quiet room away from the clinic with low lighting. Calm and relaxing music will also be available. Kids will also have access to sensory tools including fidget spinners.
COVID and flu shots for children at the health department are free and do not require ID or health insurance, but parental consent forms are required.
Primary doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine will be available for ages 6 months to 18 years. Updated Pfizer booster doses will also be available for ages 5-15. A single dose is recommended at least two months after a previous primary or booster vaccination.
Vaccines are the best way to protect children against the flu and COVID, but there are other steps parents can take to protect children against colds and RSV as well, Sheehan said.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Wash your hands well and often.
- Cover your mouth or nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Avoid touching your mouth or eyes.
- Keep your child home when they are sick.
Sheehan avoided the politically charged question of whether masks are useful when parents and children want them, saying only that it was a family choice.
The health department is finishing flu shots in all Boone County schools by Friday, Sheehan said. School immunizations began on September 19.
There aren’t a lot of student or teacher absences due to illness, Columbia Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.
“We are still in a good position at CPS regarding the disease,” Baumstark wrote in an email. “We’ve seen some respiratory illnesses, including RSV, as well as many across the country. However, we’re not seeing numbers that are out of the ordinary for this time of year.”
There were 16 students with COVID-19 on Monday, he wrote.
CPS Teachers Union President Noelle Gilzow also reported some pockets of absences across the school district, but nothing widespread.
The University of Missouri Hospital has admitted some RSV patients, spokesman Eric Maze said.
Boone Hospital has had a few RSV patients, spokesman Benjamin Cornelius said.
Children younger than six months or with heart or lung problems are at higher risk for RSV, MU pediatrician Christopher Wilhelm said in a video interview conducted by MU Health Care. It can cause increased nasal congestion and a fairly bad cough.
“The babies are the ones we really care about,” Wilhelm said.
He typically sees cases of RSV from January through March, he said.
“This year it came early” starting in October, Wilhelm said.
With babies at home, nasal secretions can be removed with a rubber bulb, he said. If it is more serious, the child should be taken to a clinic or emergency room.
“The main spread of this disease is in daycare centers and at school,” Wilhelm said. “If your child is showing signs of RSV, the flu, or COVID, please keep them home.”
Roger McKinney is the Tribune’s education reporter. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-815-1719. He is on Twitter at @rmckinney9.