Our Children Need the Vaccine - We All Do
By Dr. David Tayloe
Schoolchildren in this country once lined up with their classmates to take sugar cubes with the polio vaccine in it.
Our parents didn’t question the necessity of this. They trusted pediatricians and researchers. They trusted the science. They saw the terrible effects of polio on children – the iron lungs, the braces, the twisted limbs. They knew medical professionals had their children’s best interests at heart and wanted to protect our communities.
Why then do so many doubt the necessity of the COVID-19 vaccine to protect our communities today?
Research by public health experts indicates that most parents of children ages 5-11 years old are worried about their children becoming sick with COVID-19 and will seek vaccination. Yet many parents of school-aged children are unvaccinated. Unvaccinated adults have overwhelmed hospital capacities to care for all the COVID-infected patients, and to admit non-COVID sick people.
We all must do our part to end this pandemic once and for all. Universal immunization is our only hope.
There is a tremendous amount of misinformation on social media. The bottom line on COVID-19 vaccines is that complications of the disease are hundreds of times more prevalent than complications of the vaccine, explaining why more than 700,000 people have died from COVID since the pandemic struck the U.S. nearly two years ago. During the coming weeks, the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee of the Food and Drug Administration and the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease and Control will meet to consider the safety and need to give COVID-19 vaccine to children ages 5 to 11 years, meaning that nearly every child in the school-aged population could soon become eligible to receive the vaccine.
Children need this vaccine.
Since July 2021, the U.S. experienced a 240% increase in COVID-19 infections in children. Almost 600 children have died from COVID since the pandemic began.
Families and school staff struggle to keep children in school in the face of surging numbers of COVID-19-infected children. Our experience with virtual school during the pandemic has shown major decreases in academic performance. Masking of school-aged children has become a controversial topic for many parents, school boards, legislators, and governors. Widespread vaccination of children would help disease rates fall to levels at which masking would no longer be necessary for completely immunized populations of school-aged children and school staff. We can get back to a kind of normal if more people get vaccinated.
If we are truly interested in the safety and educational outcomes of school-aged children, we must vaccinate all our children. Our experience with vaccine-preventable diseases, particularly influenza, whooping cough, and hepatitis A, have shown that immunizing children not only protects children from the diseases, but also protects their adult family members, teachers, and other adults with whom they have regular contact.
We know that COVID-19 is much more deadly for adults than children, especially adults with risk factors like old-age, obesity, diabetes, kidney disease, and chronic lung/heart conditions. Therefore, if we really want to control COVID-19 throughout our population, we must immunize all eligible people as soon as possible. Another COVID-19 surge is predicted for the coming holiday season.
As a pediatrician who has worked in North Carolina providing primary care to thousands of children over a 44-plus year career, I have never had a patient who suffered permanent injury from a vaccine. My wife and I are fully immunized against COVID-19 and so are all our eligible children and grandchildren.
In consultation with my colleagues in the N.C. Pediatric Society, the N.C. Academy of Family Physicians, the N.C. Medical Society, the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the ABC Science Collaborative at Duke University School of Medicine, I only receive encouragement that, when a vaccine is approved for children 5 years and older, all eligible people should receive it as soon as possible.
Much like the polio vaccine was decades ago, the COVID vaccine is a modern medical miracle. It is free and available to everyone.
Most importantly, it is the most effective way to protect children from harm and help them to thrive.
Dr. David Tayloe, Jr. is a pediatrician in Goldsboro, N.C., and a past president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the North Carolina Pediatric Society.
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