This is an opinion article.
My fellow pediatricians and I welcome the responsibility to get shots in little arms!
This comes, of course, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Emergency Use Authorization of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine and the unanimous approval for children ages 5 to 11 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Vaccination is the best tool we have in combination with preventative measures to end this pandemic and protect our children and community.
It is understandable that many of our parents and caregivers may be hesitant about the vaccine and we are here to give reassurance that the vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective, providing 90.7% protection again symptomatic COVID in the trials and with no serious side effects. Those who did have side effects had mild symptoms, typically within one to two days of the dose. It is also important to know the dose is a third of what we give to teens and adults.
Here in Newton County, we are currently behind the state’s vaccination rates, leaving our community more vulnerable to outbreaks. According to the Georgia Department of Public Health, 56 percent of Georgians have received at least one dose of the vaccines and 50 percent are fully vaccinated. In Newton County, those numbers are 47 and 42 percent, respectively. We have seen the direct health consequences of this and also the ongoing educational and emotional toll on children and families. The mental health of children has become a national emergency according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association. Vaccinating against COVID not only saves lives, it also means fewer missed in-person school days and getting back to normal faster.
While most children infected with COVID will have mild or no symptoms at all, there are several important reasons why all children deserve to be protected. Some children do suffer severe acute COVID requiring hospitalization and others can suffer from post-acute sequelae of COVID, PASC, which includes a rare but serious inflammatory disease called MIS-C (multi-inflammatory syndrome in children) and “long-haul” COVID. We have been fortunate with the variants we have seen thus far that loss of life is very rare for children, however, in the 5 to 11-year-olds, COVID is in the top ten causes of death.
Similar to adults, children will receive a two-dose regimen, three weeks apart, so call your pediatrician today to get scheduled and ensure your child is protected before the winter holidays.
Samira L. Brown, M.D., is a pediatrician for Piedmont Healthcare, currently working in Covington. Brown has more than ten years of experience as a primary care pediatrician. She is board certified by the American Board of Pediatrics. She earned her medical degree at Harvard Medical School. She completed her internship and residency in pediatrics at Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center.