I am definitely getting my daughter vaccinated, and I acknowledge a minimal risk. Here is my reasoning, and perhaps this can help your family decide to get the vaccine for the kids in your family, too.
Coronavirus is going to be with us for a long time — years, decades, probably for the rest of our lives like influenza. It is even widespread in deer now, another reservoir that will make eradication unlikely. New variants are certain.
The Delta variant is extremely contagious, and future variants of concern are likely to stay that way.
Immunity through infection is not permanent or even guaranteed. Neither is 100 percent protection assured through vaccination, but getting vaxxed provides better protection with much less risk.
So, given that this isn’t going away for a long time, and that coronaviruses are very contagious, and that we don’t have a culture that can sustain lockdowns and masks, the reality is reduced to two basic choices:
Take our chances with getting COVID disease unvaccinated.
Or take our chances with getting the vaccine.
Both propositions carry risk. For adults, it’s never been a contest — getting vaxxed absolutely wins. Please get vaxxed if you haven’t. But the risks for children who get sick with COVID (especially Delta) are significant, too. Many researchers, doctors and epidemiologists who are much smarter than I have deliberately weighed the risks and benefits. The FDA and CDC have concluded that getting kids vaccinated is a much better proposition.
In the U.S., over 8,000 kids ages 5-11 have been hospitalized with COVID, with a third of them needing intensive care. At least 170 in this age group have died, and >800 American kids of all ages have died so far.
Over 5,000 have developed MIS-C, a severe inflammatory disorder.
Myocarditis? More common and more severe with infection.
Long-term risks? I am much more concerned by what we have already seen with long COVID disease, even in children. Also, most adverse effects of vaccines show up within the first six weeks, and this period has been studied extensively in trials, and more than 7 billion COVID vaccine doses have been given already.
Vaccinating kids will help keep more schools open, protect family members, especially of the older generation and those with medical problems, and improve kids’ psychological and physical health as they can more safely approach “being kids” again. School closures, remote learning and the shrinking of our children’s worlds have taken a terrible psychological toll. Vaccination is a responsible way out.
Holidays are coming, and so is winter.
It is always harder to act on a proposition than to take a passive stance. If something bad happens because we took action, it feels like we are responsible. No parent wants to hurt their child, and even if there is a tiny chance of causing harm, it is understandable why up to a third of American parents don’t plan to get their kids vaccinated voluntarily, and another third are on the fence.
But unfortunately, we are just as responsible for not acting. Seeing your child get sick, and worrying how bad it might get, and worrying about who else is about to get sick, should compel us to take control and choose the less risky proposition. I’m sticking with the AAP, AAFP, FDA, and CDC recommendations and old-school respect for expertise.
They say that doctors can actually influence vaccine decisions, and I wish you good luck with yours! For my family and me and for millions of others, it was not even a close call.
Update: My daughter got the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. She’s doing great, day three already. She’s proud of herself and looking forward to less anxiety about life in a social world.
Ryan McCormick is a family physician and writes a medical newsletter at McCormickMD.
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