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Why I am going to get my child the COVID-19 vaccine and you should too

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The past nearly two years have been incredibly hard on everyone. As a parent and a physician, I have faced many challenges personally and professionally throughout the pandemic. As exhausting as it has been, I have hope. We are so fortunate to live in a country where the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available. It’s proven to be incredibly effective against severe illness and death from COVID-19, even with the emergence of the more contagious Delta variant.

As a parent and pediatrician, I have been watching the science regarding kids and COVID very closely. I have read about the clinical trials, including possible side effects. I understand parents are concerned about the vaccine because they want to keep their children safe. But I have seen these concerns, often fueled by misinformation, voiced against the backdrop of the reintroduction of in-person learning for students and rising COVID-19 cases in children and adolescents.

Initially, COVID-19 seemed to largely spare our kids from infection, but that is not the case for the Delta variant — and it may not be the case for the next variant either. I, for one, am thrilled that the vaccine is now authorized for children 5-11. My daughter will be getting the vaccine, and I implore you to get it for your child too.

In recent years, there has been a lot of skepticism about vaccination. Measles, which was nearly eradicated, has made a comeback in communities across the country due to vaccine hesitancy rooted in misinformation. Vaccines work best when everyone gets them. Of course, there are certain small groups of people who cannot get vaccines for legitimate medical reasons. For the sake of those individuals, it is even more crucial that everyone else who is able is vaccinated.

I cannot tell you that there are zero risks associated with vaccination, but I can tell you the risk of not vaccinating is much worse. What the FDA looks for in clinical trials is that the benefits greatly outweigh the potential for harm. FDA approval means that the medication or treatment is so effective, and the side effect or risk is so small, that it is worth allowing it into the market.

The same is true for emergency use authorization. It just makes the treatment available while some final steps and additional data collection required to submit for FDA approval are ongoing. One of the biggest differences between approval and emergency use authorization has to do with FDA’s ability to remove something from the market in response to adverse events. That means, if there are issues with the vaccine among pediatric populations, FDA can move quickly to pause or its rollout and study any potential concerns – much like what happened during the rollout of the J&J vaccine.

In the case of the Pfizer vaccine, evidence from the pediatric clinic trial puts the effectiveness of the vaccine at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 at more than 90%. Importantly, no new safety issues were identified in the 5-11 age group.

We are approaching nearly three-quarters of a million deaths in this country alone due to COVID-19. The number of children becoming severely ill and dying from COVID remains small, but it is increasing. And while many children have mild or no symptoms, when they become infected, they can spread it to parents, grandparents, teachers, or caregivers who may not be so lucky.

This pandemic has been our reality for nearly two years, and it shows no signs of ending anytime soon. Everyone desperately wants to get back to some sense of normalcy.

Our passport to normal life is the vaccine. If you still have questions or concerns, talk to your pediatrician or family health care provider. The best way you can protect your child and your community is to get them the vaccine.

My kid is getting it. Will you join me?

Dr. Teresa Shinder

Chief Medical Officer, OLE Health

Pediatrician

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