Pediatric Hospital Pharmacist Puts Parents’ Concerns Into Perspective

Pharmacist Kyle Hickman ready to provide COVID-19 vaccines at the Orange Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio..

Pharmacist Kyle Hickman ready to provide COVID-19 vaccines at the Orange Clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Once children became eligible for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Kyle Hickman, PharmD, encountered many concerned parents in the Orange Clinic—the COVID-19 vaccine clinic at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

Having heard reports in the news of children developing myocarditis after receiving the mRNA vaccine, some parents were unsure about having their children vaccinated.

“As any parent would react, they were just hearing that there was a risk and that was enough to make them say, ‘This concerns me a lot,’” said Hickman, Pharmacy Vaccine Coordinator at Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Hickman puts the risk in perspective by explaining that the side effect is rare. Reviews of cases of myocarditis following COVID-19 vaccination that were collected by the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System reveal that the incidence of myocarditis in children and adolescents following COVID-19 vaccination is uncommon, and the vaccines are safe. Additionally, most patients who developed vaccine-related myocarditis recover with medication and rest.

Hickman explains that COVID-19 infection also comes with risks, including myocarditis. The risks that accompany infection, he tells parents, are far greater than the risk of vaccine-related myocarditis. Finally, underscoring that the risks of the vaccine were not to be dismissed completely, Hickman informs worried parents how to spot the signs and symptoms of myocarditis after vaccination.

“For the most part, after our discussions, those parents were okay with going ahead and having their children vaccinated that day,” Hickman said.

The Orange Clinic remained open for COVID-19 vaccines 3 days a week through January 2023, and staff continued to vaccinate up to 150 patients every clinic day. While many visited the clinic for COVID-19 vaccine boosters, a large number came in for first and second doses of the primary series at this late date. Hickman says the reasons people held off for so long varied.

Practice Pearl

Even more than 2 years after introduction of COVID-19 vaccines, there is still hope that unvaccinated people will decide to get immunized. Always ask patients about their interest in the vaccine and whether you can answer any questions for them.

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“Some wanted to see more safety and efficacy data. Others just wanted more information in general,” Hickman said.

Eventually, many of those who held out for more information, more than 2 years after vaccines became available, finally agreed to vaccination. For this reason, Hickman says pharmacists should continue to ask and talk about COVID-19 vaccines with their patients and administer vaccines.

“Stay open to discussion and be patient and understanding,” Hickman said. “Keep asking if they’re interested in the vaccine, if they’ve thought about it, and keep following up. A lot of people who initially weren’t sure just need more information. Being able to communicate effectively to address their concerns in a patient, empathetic, and understanding way is key in convincing more folks to get it.”

—Sonya Collins
February 2023

Resources to Know What Drives Vaccine Confidence and help Discuss the Importance of COVID-19 Vaccination are available at APhA’s Vaccine Confident microsite.