Vaccines for the very young offer new hope


“Dr. Szilagyi, I am really worried about when I can get my daughter vaccinated.

As a pediatrician, I often hear this from parents whose children are too young to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Children under the age of 5 are not yet eligible for the vaccine, which leaves many families anxious and adrift.

One of the unique challenges of pediatric care is that we witness the distress of parents, their fear for their children, the overwhelming stressors created by this virus – an invisible and evolving threat to our families and ourselves. The uncertainty the pandemic has brought undermines our sense of security and theirs. Parents can feel powerless to protect their children, so they turn to us.

In mid-January, new cases of COVID-19 among children in the United States topped one million in a single week for the first time since the American Academy of Pediatrics began tracking cases. Fortunately, we are now seeing cases slowly declining, but when a child comes home from school after testing positive for COVID-19, it triggers a wave of panic for many parents who have children under the age of 5. sanitary conditions, COVID is even more troubling.

So the news that Pfizer and BioNTech have applied for emergency use authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months to 5 years is hopeful news for families. For too long, many families of children in this age group have felt left out as they struggle to balance security, employment, childcare and early education. They worry about their child’s social-emotional development and general well-being. And yes, they are also concerned about the safety and effectiveness of a vaccine for their little ones.

Pediatricians are eager to ensure the protection of our patients and we will continue to follow the science and evidence wherever it leads for this age group. The AAP, CDC and others will carefully review the vaccine data for under-5s, as it will be considered next week at a meeting of the FDA Vaccine Committee.

The hard truth is that we need more people to get vaccinated to help slow the spread of a virus that has killed 900,000 people in the United States.

The pandemic has been going on for two years. We are all tired and frustrated. But this virus and its variants are not done with us yet.

It’s a familiar story, but full of promise.

Many of us now take it for granted that polio is no longer a scourge in our country, but it took a huge public health effort and many years to eliminate it. Widespread use of Dr. Jonas Salk’s breakthrough vaccine began in 1955, and the oral polio vaccine was introduced in the 1960s, making vaccination even easier. But it wasn’t until 1979 that the US was able to successfully declare that it had no more recorded cases originating here.

When we pull ourselves together, we succeed.

What we know so far about the vaccine in older children, adolescents and adults is that it is highly effective in preventing the worst harms of the disease, including hospitalizations and deaths. Vaccinating as many people as possible also helps reduce transmission, including to more vulnerable people like grandparents and immunocompromised people. Vaccines help protect the teachers who valiantly show up to their schools every day, the doctors and nurses who care for the sick, and the nurses who look after children so their parents can work.

These front line workers are exhausted and stressed. Working to stop this virus can help them tremendously. Getting vaccinated is a crucial step in protecting ourselves and our children.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the AAP welcomes another step forward in delivering a lifesaving vaccine once we are satisfied that the vaccine testing process has been rigorous. and followed established protocols.

We all have a role to play in ending the pandemic. Wear a mask when you are with other people, get vaccinated, and talk to your pediatrician about the vaccine for your children. Also, be kind to healthcare workers, grocery store cashiers, the receptionist at your dentist’s office, bus drivers, mail carriers, and anyone trying to get through this difficult time.

Let’s get together.

Dr. Moira Szilagyi is a pediatrician and president of the American Academy of Pediatrics.


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