Early February 2021 was a busy time for our Global Infectious Diseases team as we prepared for our big event in the first week of March—the St. Jude/PIDS Pediatric Infectious Diseases Research Conference. But, our attention also shifted to the COVID-19 vaccine, which took center stage around that time.
I read with interest an email from an oncologist in Latin America asking about COVID-19 vaccines in children and their caretakers. I frequently receive emails from colleagues around the world asking questions about infection care and prevention in oncology. While searching for the best answer to his question, I received another email from a St. Jude colleague who forwarded a similar question, then another, and another, and finally from Kathy Pritchard-Jones, MD, the president of the International Society of Paediatric Oncology (SIOP). From there, we decided to create a group of experts who could discuss, search and answer frequent questions similar to the one I received about COVID-19 vaccinations in children with cancer.
The formation of this group was aided by Pritchard-Jones as well as St. Jude Global Director Carlos Rodriguez-Galindo, MD, who facilitated communication with SIOP and other St. Jude Global network partners to form the group. Our goal was to answer frequent questions about COVID-19 vaccination and pediatric oncology care and meet the needs of the global membership of SIOP and the St Jude Global Alliance. Through our website, covid19childhoodcancer.org, we were able to reach health care providers, patients and caregivers to provide valuable information about COVID-19 vaccines.
We formed an expert group of oncologists, pediatric infectious diseases and nursing professionals representing all global regions. Jessica Bate, MD, from the University Hospital Southampton, United Kingdom, championed the parents’ voices for the group. Ken Alexander, MD, PhD, a vaccinologist from the Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, Florida, and Bob Phillips, MD, a pediatric oncologist and senior clinical academic at University of York in the United Kingdom, guided us in our task. We met weekly to answer these essential questions from around the world.
Through our new COVID-19 and Childhood Cancer Vaccine Working Group website, we can provide up-to-the-minute information and news about the COVID-19 vaccine.
To attain the herd immunity needed to stop the transmission of SARS-CoV-2, it will take more than vaccinating all eligible adults. We need to vaccinate all susceptible people, including children. In low- and middle-income countries, the population of young people is much larger than older ones. We need to vaccinate the young people to halt the transmission. As health care providers, we must advocate for vaccination. It is fundamental that we get informed about COVID-19 vaccines, the composition, the mode of delivery, the dosages, the side effects, proper storage, how to procure them and how to incorporate this vaccine into the routine immunization schedule for all children.
It’s also essential to provide an accurate, science-based site for vaccine information. We plan to continuously provide a curated and trusted direction in this quickly expanding area. We want to walk this journey with our readers, answer their questions and provide vaccine news as it emerges.