LANDSTUHL, Germany – Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, the largest American hospital overseas, began COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11, becoming one of the first Military Treatment Facilities overseas to vaccinate that patient population, Nov. 18.
COVID-19 vaccinations for children ages 5 to 11 began in the United States, Nov. 3, following the arrival of the vaccines to military installations in Europe, eligible U.S. Citizens abroad are now widely offered the opportunity to inoculate their 5- to 11-year-olds with the COVID-19 vaccine at different installations across Europe.
“We’re excited to expand protection against COVID-19 to this population,” said U.S. Army Col. Andrew Landers, the hospital’s commander. “Today marks a critical step toward defending the health and welfare of the Joint Warfighter, their families, (Department of Defense) civilians overseas, and protecting our host nation communities here in Germany as well.”
Following the announcement of the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine events at LRMC, appointments neared capacity, but hospital officials plan to continue offering the vaccine to parents of children who want it. More vaccination events are expected to be announced as demand continues.
“Today is a great day for Europe and the children in our community,” said U.S. Army Col. Sean Dooley, a pulmonary critical care physician at LRMC. “It's especially an important day for (our military) community because we've had several (COVID-19) outbreaks in our schools, which can affect the adult populations.”
According to the Food and Drug Administration, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccine for children 5 through 11 years of age is administered as a two-dose primary series, 3 weeks apart, but is a lower dose (10 micrograms) than that used for individuals 12 years of age and older (30 micrograms).
For Yetta Lewis, a military spouse and mother of two, the pediatric vaccine offers her and her seven-year-old son, Victor, a sigh of relief while moving the family one step closer to being fully vaccinated.
“We feel very fortunate that it is available for him,” said Lewis. “I think vaccinating saves lives, it prevents the spread of the virus.”
While Lewis and her family are excited to travel around Europe with limited restrictions, once fully vaccinated, they are also looking forward to spending time with friends and family back home.
“We want to spend time with our family members, especially their grandparents,” said Lewis. “They miss their grandchildren and it's time to have Thanksgiving back and Christmas back together.”
“I got the vaccine to be with my friends,” added Victor, one of the first children to receive the initial dose of the vaccine at LRMC.
While no vaccine is 100 percent protective, COVID-19 vaccinations are proven to be effective at preventing COVID-19, and getting sick or severely ill with the disease, according to the CDC. Additionally, new studies show when COVID-19 is contracted in those who are vaccinated, they are likely to be less contagious than unvaccinated individuals, reducing the spread of the disease overall.
“We expect that to be the case in the pediatric population as well, the higher percentage of the total population, adults and children, who are vaccinated against this virus, the more it can help slow the spread,” said Dooley. “I've seen a lot of heartache, I've seen this disease rip through families and take fathers and sons, mothers and daughters away from their loved ones prematurely. Seeing that happen in the (Intensive Care Unit) and feeling helpless for the first time in almost 20 years of critical care medicine, motivates me to be here.”
Additionally, Dooley notes the potential for spreading COVID-19 is higher for younger children due to the close contact required for direct care.
To ensure the pediatric patients are safe and comfortable, LRMC staff underwent additional training to familiarize non-pediatric staff with vaccination best practices for that specific population. Health care professionals assigned to the hospital’s Pediatric Clinic also augmented vaccination efforts to further increase patient safety. LRMC staff were joined by medical professionals from the 86th Medical Group, 86th Airlift Wing, Ramstein Air Base, Germany.
LRMC is scheduled to hold more vaccination clinics throughout November and December, offering the vaccination to every eligible child in the largest U.S. military community outside the U.S.
Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, Germany, is the only forward-stationed medical center for U.S. & Coalition forces, Department of State personnel, and repatriated U.S. citizens. LRMC is the largest U.S. hospital outside the United States where it serves as the sole military medical center for more than 205,000 beneficiaries throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The jointly staffed hospital provides over 52 medical specialties and is the only American College of Surgeons verified Level II Trauma Center outside the United States.