Healthy Kids - Summer 2021

Nurses, physicians and volunteers from throughout the Rady Children’s community stepped in to help immunize San Diegans

Between her time at Petco Park and Rady Children’s main campus, Dr. Boiko has lost count of how many hours she’s spent volunteering. But she hasn’t lost track of the special stories that make it all worth it—from the two teenage girls, strangers who were both wearing cheerleading sweatshirts, uniting in a spontaneous cheer of positivity; to running into an adult melanoma patient she once cared for years ago; to the waves of elderly patients who remember her parents from their days of teaching at Francis Parker. Each day there’s been something new and special in store, and Dr. Boiko has embraced it all. “People say, ‘How do you have so much energy?’” she says. “To me, talking to people is energizing, and we all leave feeling more hopeful and excited than we were when we came in.” LOOKING AHEAD As the COVID-19 vaccines become available to younger age groups, Rady Children’s is easily shifting back to its mission to protect the health and wellness of the region’s youth. As of press time, the Food and Drug Administration has authorized the Pfizer vaccine for children age 12 and up, and ages 2 to 11 are likely next on the horizon. Studies are underway on children as young as 6 months old, with Rady Children’s researchers participating in some clinical trials. Doctors are optimistic about the future and encourage parents to vaccinate their children as soon as the opportunity arises, emphasizing the importance and safety of vaccination for kids of all ages. “First of all, we’re talking about the same vaccines for kids as for adults—there’s no difference,” explains Mark Sawyer, MD, an infectious disease specialist at Rady Children’s and professor of clinical pediatrics at UC San Diego. “From the beginning, the Pfizer vaccine was authorized for children ages 16 and up. There have been no additional side effects reported in kids, and it’s as perfectly safe to give to adolescents as it is for adults. We’ve now given more than 100 million doses in the United States and many more worldwide—we know a lot now, and there’s no reason to be nervous. While the belief is that children are not as affected by COVID-19 as adults, they do at times get severe cases—it’s not a benign infection for kids—and they can spread it to others.” Dr. Sawyer concludes, “The bottom line is that the vaccine is important. Children are part of the equation of community spread. The best way to protect your whole family is getting as many people vaccinated as possible. It will not only help your family’s health, but it will also help your kids get back to school and their regular activities.”

The Food and Drug Administration has authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children age 12 and up, and ages 2 to 11 are likely next on the horizon MAKING CONNECTIONS For Susan Boiko, MD, a Rady Children’s dermatologist, the vaccine clinic was a way to connect with the community and make them smile after a year that was fraught with fear and worry. She first volunteered at the Petco Park vaccination station, then brought her radiant energy to Rady Children’s and has been putting smiles on patients’ faces ever since. “My job is to alleviate the fear and make getting vaccinated a pleasant, memorable and exciting experience for everyone,” she says. Dr. Boiko takes this job very seriously—or as seriously as one can when they’re leading crowds in the chicken dance or making up silly songs with lyrics like “Pfizer, Pfizer, makes you wiser.” Easing patients’ fears, answering their questions, or simply helping to pass the time during the 15 minutes’ observational period after they receive the shot, “Dr. Sue” has become a familiar face at the clinic. She enjoys the camaraderie of fellow physician volunteers, the rapport with the cafeteria workers who now sing the chicken dance when she walks in, and, of course, the connection with the community.


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