Please note: This article and video were created in September 2021, before a vaccine was available for 5-11 year old children. On October 29, the FDA authorized a smaller dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine (10 micrograms, 1/3 an adult dose) for use in 5-11-year-olds.
As parents, one of our most important jobs is keeping our children safe and healthy. It’s the reason we put them in car seats, bike helmets and life jackets. It’s the reason we nag them to brush their teeth and to eat more vegetables. And it’s the reason we vaccinate them. As pediatricians, our most important job is providing families with the information and tools to help them care for their kids — it’s the cause we’ve dedicated our careers to.
In the last year and a half, kids have had their lives upended. Many kids have lost grandparents or parents. Many have themselves gotten sick. The delta variant spreads faster among the unvaccinated population than previous strains, and now an ever-growing proportion of the unvaccinated are children. Child cases have more than quadrupled in recent weeks, rising from about 38,000 cases nationally the week ending July 22nd to 180,000 cases the week of August 19th. Child cases account for 15% of all new COVID-19 cases.
As we see more cases among children, we are seeing proportionally more children becoming critically ill. Kids are dying, and kids who survive are at risk of long-term complications, the extent of which we do not yet fully understand. For many children, they will have a mild course, but even with mild symptoms, they could pass the virus to someone more vulnerable — like an elderly grandparent or immunocompromised neighbor. COVID-19 is unpredictable, and one child lost to COVID-19 is one too many.
This week, the FDA gave full approval to the Pfizer vaccine (now branded Comirnaty), throwing their full support behind a vaccine that has now been part of the largest vaccine study in history. As hundreds of millions have been vaccinated, we are learning even more about how effective and safe it is. The study of vaccinated children has had remarkable results, with very few side effects and excellent efficacy in kids. Right now, only kids 12 and older can receive this vaccine, and in my experience, they are excited to get themselves protected. The sense of responsibility shines from these teens: they want to protect their friends, their grandparents, their younger siblings, their community.
I’m often asked in clinic how long it will be before I vaccinate my kids against COVID-19. They’re under 12, so they’re not yet eligible, but I joke that it will be 40 minutes after it’s approved for their age group — 20 minutes to get to their school, and 20 minutes to get back to the office to vaccinate them. Pediatricians are seeing the effect that this pandemic is having on kids — directly and indirectly — and are desperate to see our patients protected. We want kids in school, and safe around their families and peers. We are waiting with bated breath for the vaccine to be approved for younger kids, because it will be that many more of our patients that we can protect. We want them to have their childhoods back, and we recognize that vaccines are one of the best ways to get them there.
There is nothing pediatricians take more seriously than the health and safety of your children, and to get you the information you need to do the same. We chose this path to advocate for your kids above anything else. We vaccinated ourselves to protect them. We would not recommend anything for your children that we did not trust. Right now, the vaccine is only available to kids 12 and up, but each vaccinated child is protecting themselves and countless people around them. If you have a child who is eligible for the vaccine, please reach out to your doctor to find out how to get them vaccinated. Be part of the team that protects the kids.