Gavin Smits, 12, receives a first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Harborview Medical Center on May 13, 2021 in Seattle. Photo by David Ryder | Getty Images
The recent authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 years and older is a step in the right direction for protecting Arizonans.
For over 30 years, I have been a practicing pediatrician in the Valley, and in that time I never imagined we’d be dealing with a crisis of this scale. I’m not only referring to the COVID-19 pandemic but to the massive amounts of misinformation parents have to sift through when trying to make an informed decision about their children’s health and medical care.
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Being a parent is so rewarding, but it is not without its challenges. As a father of six children and sixteen grandchildren, I can attest to this. Protecting them becomes parents’ number one priority, and we do whatever it takes to keep them safe, both physically and mentally. When a close family friend died of liver disease due to hepatitis A, our young children said goodbye to her in the hospital with tears in their eyes. Now, we have a vaccine that would have prevented that illness.
After years of humanity battling life-threatening diseases with little success, the promising outcomes of vaccinations have been instrumental in preventing families from going through traumatic moments like the one mine experienced.
As parents, we can trust in our family members and friends for guidance when tackling some of the most challenging parenting moments. However, when it comes to vaccination against serious illnesses, I am asking you — as someone who has been in your shoes — to trust your pediatrician and medical experts. We are hyper-focused on preventing the circulation of serious illnesses in our community and trained to deal with the pandemic we are facing today. Please, ask questions and voice your concerns about vaccinating your child against COVID-19; in addition to attending to your child’s health, it is our job to ensure you have accurate and factual information about their well-being.
If you find yourself struggling to weather the storm of misinformation, let medical experts offer a safe and quiet harbor in which you can make informed decisions about your child’s health.
It is important to remember the consequences of our decisions may be life-altering for someone else.
– Dr. Dale Guthrie
Data shows the COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 5 years and older. Based on this data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended children in this age group be vaccinated for COVID-19, and the Food and Drug Administration has issued approval through Emergency Use Authorization.
The testing and authorization process for vaccines is no small feat; just like other vaccines currently available to children, there were no shortcuts taken during the approval process of the COVID-19 vaccine. We’ve seen such success in immunizations against diseases like meningitis (three types), measles, polio, and whooping cough, just to name a few, because of this rigorous process. It’s been proven time and time again: Immunizations are the single most important health care achievement throughout all recorded history, and pediatricians are thankful for the strides modern medicine has made to eradicate many terrible diseases from our society.
Vaccinating more of our children also means they can begin to return to their normal activities and schedules. The lack of socialization and structure many children have endured during isolation has negatively impacted their growth. Getting them vaccinated and back to a semblance of normalcy is the best way to support their mental health and protect them.
Lastly, I urge parents to consider that vaccinating your child offers our community two layers of protection. It will shield them, but it will also protect those they come in contact with, such as older relatives or teachers who may have a higher risk of experiencing complications. It is important to remember the consequences of our decisions may be life-altering for someone else.
Every day, physicians and other medical experts learn more about treating COVID-19 and managing its lingering effects, but one thing we know now is that vaccination is a safe and effective way of reducing the spread of the virus. On this point, the medical community stands together, and we’re asking you to stand with us. Now is the time to learn from a trustworthy source, your pediatrician. I am doing my part as a pediatrician to help parents make the best decision for their families. I hope that you will trust yours and do the same.
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