Group of people seated in East Dover School auditorium listening to presentation

Zufall Health Providers Address Dover Families’ COVID-19 Vaccination Concerns at Community Event

On Tuesday, November 30, Zufall Health hosted “The COVID Vaccine & Kids: Answering Parents’ Questions” in the East Dover School auditorium in Dover, NJ in collaboration with several community partners.

The objective of the family-friendly evening gathering was to address misinformation regarding the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially recommended for children ages 5-11 on November 2, 2021. Verbal presentations were made in both English and Spanish.

Attendees first heard from Zufall Director of Nursing Kathleen Felezzola, RN, BSN, MSEd, who debunked the most common myths about the COVID-19 vaccine, including the notions that the vaccine’s development was rushed or cannot be trusted, that the shot alters a child’s DNA, or that a child who previously had COVID does not need to be vaccinated.

Following this introduction, Zufall pediatrician Mario Szuchman, M.D., and behavioral health provider Vanessa Diaz, LSW, spoke and answered questions in their respective areas of expertise.

Man with mask responding to woman seated next to her child

Zufall pediatrician Mario Szuchman, M.D., responds to a parent’s pediatric vaccine question.

Szuchman confirmed that a child can receive both the flu vaccine and COVID-19 at the same time and that, yes, even a child who does not have any immunocompromising conditions should still be vaccinated. He also explained that, like adults, children are provided with records of vaccination and pointed out that only adults ages 18+ are eligible for booster shots at this time. Moderately to severely immunocompromised children ages 12-17, however, are eligible for an additional (third) dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 28 days after the second dose.

Diaz helped the audience members check in with themselves emotionally by leading her presentation with a meditative stretch. She underscored three components of a healthy home during the pandemic and beyond: connection, validation, and healthy boundaries. She also encouraged parents to maintain open communication with their children about mental health and reducing their social media usage to strengthen familial bonds.

The event took place just four days after the World Health Organization classified a new strain of COVID-19 as the Omicron variant, and amidst steadily rising virus positivity rates in New Jersey. New confirmed cases in the state more than quadrupled from 1,001 on November 2 to 4,532 on December 9, according to tracking from the New Jersey Department of Health.

“There are new developments all the time with this virus and I believe that parents, and the community at large, appreciate the opportunity to connect directly with local health care providers,” Michelle Blanchfield, MPH, Director of Outreach and Special Populations at Zufall. “All of the data points to the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in all ages so far.”

Beyond the presentations, attendees were provided with fresh produce, enjoyed participation in a dance show, received homework help, and had the opportunities to schedule vaccination appointments with Zufall and to enroll in health coverage for 2022.

The event was hosted in partnership with the Dover Family Success Center, Legal Services of Northwest Jersey, the Morris County Organization for Hispanic Affairs, Paso a Paso ArtStudio, Reach Out and Read, and SNAP-Ed.

To date, Zufall has administered more than 30,000 vaccines to individuals of all ages, but “Answering Parents’ Questions” marked the health center’s first related educational event. Zufall Health’s outreach team looks forward to replicating the event in our other communities in the future.


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