LET’S PROTECT OUR CHILDRENOctober 4th, 2021
For decades, children’s vaccines have been a routine requirement at the start of every school year. Unfortunately, there’s nothing routine about this year.
As a physician, I was heartbroken to read that 250,000 children have tested positive for COVID-19 as schools have reopened and nearly 30,000 children were admitted to hospitals over the past year (Aug. 2020 – Aug. 2021) due to this virus, according to an updated New York Times article.
All this, despite the fact that children age 12 and up are authorized to receive the vaccine. Still, too many parents are rejecting this proven protection.
In Michigan our COVID-19 vaccination rates for those under 18 need to be significantly higher if we are going to make a dent in the spread of this disease. According to the state of Michigan database, 33% of children 12-15 and 41% of those 16-19 have been fully vaccinated.
This pandemic, which is straining our health system, is both frustrating and unnecessary. The underlying condition we are battling is not a medical issue but misinformation. Sadly, too many accept false claims on social media about COVID-19 vaccines as fact while the evidence shows that the vaccines are safe and effective.
More than 3.6 billion people have been vaccinated around the world, with relatively few complications. Vaccinated people are far less likely to contract and spread the virus. Coupled with other proven strategies – including wearing masks, washing hands and social distancing – vaccination provides the best chance for us to stay healthy – not to mention helping us guard the health of patients in our care.
Although it goes by a single name, COVID-19 encompasses a broad range of evolving viruses. That’s because viruses don’t just infect cells; they hijack them to make more copies of themselves. This is why we get sicker until our immune system recognizes the intruder and mounts a defense. Vaccines work because they give our bodies a head start in this fight.
Viruses don’t always make perfect copies of themselves. These imperfections are called mutations and, as Darwin taught us, those that help the organism survive are more likely to be passed on. That is the case with COVID-19 which has spawned thousands of known variants. The vast majority of these have little consequence in spreading the disease, but a few do. The Delta variant, now the most common strain in the U.S., can replicate itself much faster than the original strain, allowing it to make people sicker faster and transmit between people at higher rates.
The good news is that the current vaccines appear to be effective against these new strains. Although there have been breakthrough cases in which the vaccinated have gotten COVID-19, almost all those hospitalized are unvaccinated.
Although children infected with COVID-19 remain less likely to develop life-threatening illnesses than older Americans, some are dying from the virus. Even when asymptomatic, children infected with COVID-19 can transmit the disease to their loved ones.
The science demands that we vaccinate as many people as possible to stay ahead of a moving target.
To protect our children, as well as ourselves, our patients and families and society at large we should require that everyone 12 and up be vaccinated, unless they have valid medical or religious exceptions. And when approved for younger children, they too should be vaccinated. The COVID-19 vaccine should become as routine as the shots children receive to guard against measles, mumps, rubella, chickenpox and other diseases.
Do you agree? What are your concerns about this controversial topic? Share with us in the discussion box below.