I have been practicing pediatrics for 41 years and know the power of vaccines to stop the spread of disease and suffering, for individual children as well as entire families and communities. We’ve all seen this happen in real time over the past few months. In May, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the Covid-19 emergency vaccine for children ages 12 and older, millions of children were suddenly able to return to the activities that help them develop into independent, creative and productive adults we want them to become. If you have a teenager in your life who has received the vaccine, chances are you witnessed a remarkable transformation once they were allowed to safely enter the world.
Now I hope we will see a similar transformation for younger children like my grandchildren. The FDA has scheduled a meeting later this month to consider approving the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in children ages 5 to 11. What I tell my daughter and son-in-law is that the data on the vaccine is very reassuring. More than 13 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 have already received the vaccine and there is a lot of evidence that it is safe and effective. Now, impartial scientific advisory boards at the FDA and the CDC will review the data from the clinical trials in children 11 years and younger. This review is an important step and will ensure that the dosage is correct, effective and safe for the younger age group.
I hope they determine that the vaccine is ready. My family certainly is. We are already looking forward to seeing the kids play and play sports with friends again, while we look ahead and enjoy the opportunity to celebrate holidays and birthdays together again.
We need to dispel the idea that children have not been harmed by Covid-19. They have missed school, are isolated from friends and family, and have missed camp, sports and other activities. Nearly 6 million children in the US have been diagnosed with Covid-19, according to data collected by the American Academy of Pediatrics. More than 600 children have died, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and tens of thousands more have lost a parent. With the vaccine we can prevent more suffering.
To parents who are still hesitant about the vaccines, I recommend that you speak with your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider. They know your family and your child and can answer all your questions. And if you’re an adult who hasn’t been vaccinated yet, you can do your part too: answer your questions and make a plan to get the vaccine.
Increasing the number of people of all ages getting vaccinated will make everyone and every community safer.