N.J. pediatricians: Get your child vaccinated now | Opinion

By Jeanne Craft, Jennifer Chuang and Alan Weller

In recent weeks, the United States, including New Jersey, has seen a rise in COVID-19 cases, mainly due to the spread of the Delta strain of the coronavirus. In addition to COVID-19, pediatricians are seeing more and more children with other respiratory viruses that are more common in winter than in summer. We expect to continue to have widespread respiratory illness as we approach fall.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children get all their scheduled vaccines on time. This includes vaccines to protect against chickenpox, rotavirus, flu, hepatitis, whooping cough, haemophilus influenza B, mumps and measles. At the time of writing, this also means that adolescents aged 12 and older are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccines are safe and effective.

The New Jersey Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (NJAAP) is deeply concerned that a few elected officials and candidates running for office have supported “vaccine choice” as part of their campaign messages. The NJAAP is committed to our recommendation that New Jersey allow only medical exemptions for deviations from the standard vaccine schedule for entry to school.

This recommendation is designed to protect the health of your child and other children and staff within the schools. Children who are immunocompromised and whose health depends on the vaccination coverage of those around them are of particular concern. Policies that would relax these exemption requirements endanger the health of both children and the general public. Such efforts to reduce childhood vaccinations would not protect the child; such a policy would rather be anti-child.

These last 16 months of the pandemic have been relentless, and pediatricians across New Jersey have worked tirelessly. We have been hospitalized in inpatient services, intensive care units and emergency rooms. We have treated children in the office and via telecare. We have provided guidance to parents and schools throughout the year. We have treated children with COVID-19 and an assortment of ailments. In addition, our patients have lost parents, grandparents and other loved ones; we care for adolescents with increasing mental health crises during the pandemic.

The pandemic has been long and hard and we are entering a critical phase with the emergence of the Delta variant. We beg our patients and parents who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. We call on our elected officials and candidates for elected office from all political parties to act responsibly and take action to save lives. Candidates should not base their campaigns on promises to parents that they will support changes in legislation to increase vaccine exemptions; this would be harmful to the children of New Jersey.

This essay is also signed by Puthenmadam Radhakrishnan, MD, a pediatrician at Bellevue Pediatrics and co-chair of the New Jersey Immunization Network.

Jeanne Craft, MD, FAAP, is president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, New Jersey Division.

Jennifer Chuang, MD, MS, FAAP, is secretary of the American Academy of Pediatrics, New Jersey Division.

Alan Weller, MD, MPH, FAAP, is the former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, New Jersey.

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