By Patricia Clay
Updated: 2 hours ago Published: 2 hours ago
When the FDA approved COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 in late October, I knew our clinic would soon be overrun with parents looking to protect their little ones. As a pediatrician — and parent of a four-year-old boy and a two-year-old girl — I hailed this medical news as an important step toward a chance for a return to normalcy.
But I also know that I practice pediatrics at a time when there is a lot of misinformation. For better or for worse, and I’d argue worse, ours is an era where piles of data and research from sacred institutions like the Mayo Clinic, the CDC, and Johns Hopkins University, where I received my Masters in Public Health, can be called into question by little more than a dubious YouTube video.
And I find that very discouraging.
And yet I want to believe that these are still the best times.
I believe this because, in the face of an unprecedented pandemic, the world quickly and responsibly rose to the challenge, developing and testing life-saving vaccines that are proving extremely safe and effective.
Now, of course, I fully understand the concerns of parents. Any parent who grabs their toddler’s hand or pushes a stroller across the street to get to the park is constantly on the lookout for potential threat or danger. That’s how we’re put together.
So imagine how I felt when – during my son’s first week of pre-K – he contracted COVID. Or how I felt when my whole family then tested positive in the two weeks following his positive test. I can assure you that I was anxious the whole time we were in isolation.
Fortunately, none of us experienced any serious symptoms or required hospitalization. Yet weeks and weeks of isolation are no fun for all of us. And they’re especially hard on young children whose grandmothers live just two doors down — as my kids happily have — and they’re unable to receive regular loving and nurturing hugs for fear of spreading the virus to a more vulnerable family member.
So you can rest assured that my son will get his COVID vaccine on the day he turns five. His pediatrician – and his mother – will take care of it.
I see the childhood vaccine as a much-needed layer of protection for our children from the realities of the world they live in today. Just like making sure your little one has a warm coat in the winter, making an appointment to have your child vaccinated is a wise parental decision that just makes sense – especially when the likelihood of complications from COVID is significantly higher. than complications from the vaccine.
I have seen dozens of children grow up with the fear of being in a room with an adult who is not their parent. I’ve seen kids who don’t yet know how to interact with their peers because they don’t go to kindergarten or daycare since March 2020. It will be years before we fully understand the long-term social consequences that are being put at our children’s feet as a result of COVID. As a pediatrician and parent, I will find it both fascinating and sad to learn about these long-term effects.
The vaccine gives them a chance to catch up and live the life they deserve and the life we want for them. They’ve had a significant setback in education and classroom development and we have a real chance of getting them back on track.
In addition to the social costs, there are of course the economic costs. When a carer has extended periods of unpaid leave due to COVID-driven shutdowns or COVID exposure, or is forced to work from home while providing full-time childcare, it impacts the entire household and the long-term economic stability of that household .
So I want to roll up my sleeves for children and their parents who have yet to be vaccinated. I promise you that our communities will be healthier and stronger if they do. Let’s take Alaska into 2022 with renewed confidence in the efficacy of life-saving vaccines.
dr. Patricia Clay is an outpatient pediatrician who has been practicing in Anchorage since 2016 and completed her pediatric training at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
The views expressed here are those of the writer and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a wide variety of views. Send an email to commentary(at)adn.com to submit a piece for consideration. Send entries shorter than 200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to submit via a web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and comments here.