PROTECTING OUR YOUNGEST AGAINST COVID-19July 6th, 2022
As a physician and a grandfather of three young children, I am heartbroken when I look at our daily COVID-19 census numbers and still see two or three children on that list nearly every day. The good news is that parents or guardians can now get children 6 months through 5 years of age vaccinated with the FDA-approved Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines to better protect them from COVID-19.
But having available vaccines is only half the battle – the harder part is convincing parents and guardians to use this excellent and necessary protection. To date, vaccination rates for children 13 years old and up are much lower than in the general population and it’s likely there will be even more hesitation among parents to allow their younger children to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
It is normal for parents to be protective of their children and cautious about newly developed and tested vaccines. But let’s look at the science. More than 5.23 billion people worldwide have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine since they were first approved at the end of 2020. The evidence shows that vaccination carries an extraordinarily low risk, a risk far less than that of being infected by COVID-19.
For children older than 6 months, studies confirm the safety of COVID-19 vaccination. The clinical trials were rigorous; the results analysis by experts at the CDC and Health and Human Services were thorough. No corners were cut. The evidence is clear: vaccination is far, far safer than contracting COVID-19 in the short term, even in children where death and long-term hospitalization is much less common than in adults.
But what about the long-term? It’s too early for data on long-term effects of COVID-19 vaccinations. For many, this fact makes the decision easy. Because there could be harm in vaccination, why risk it?
Here are some additional reasons parents should vaccinate their young children:.
Consider this: COVID-19 infection is very common in children – children account for about one-fifth of all reported cases. This could be hard to see because their symptoms were often, but not always, mild. But even asymptomatic children infected with COVID-19 can transmit the disease to their loved ones.
More to the point, long-term adverse effects of viral infections can occur with mild initial illnesses. Numerous illnesses in young adults have been linked to viral illnesses. As a cardiologist, I immediately think of the heart. Several viruses known to infect some children have resulted in inflammation of the heart, or myocarditis. Myocarditis puts a child at risk of developing heart failure as a young adult. Severe heart failure, or cardiomyopathy, in young adults can result in ongoing medication, hospitalization, heart transplants and, in some cases, death.
It is also worth stating that studies have shown that there’s no association between vaccination causing a variety of diseases including asthma, autism, arthritis, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and others.
For children, like adults, vaccination reduces unnecessary hospitalizations in the short term and may prevent more severe illnesses in later years.
Due to all this science-based evidence, as a physician and a grandparent, I am urging that everyone – including children 6 months to age 5 – protect themselves with safe and effective vaccines.
As members of a world-class health care system, I think we have an additional responsibility to serve as professional advocates for the vaccine. Share what you know about the science. This recent Michigan Medicine blog about the vaccine for kids under 5 provides a lot of common sense information you can share with patients, colleagues, friends or family.
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 topic? Share with us in the discussion box below.