The purpose of this post is very direct. I am a healthcare provider and I have friends and family who ask my opinion about healthcare related things, including the Covid-19 vaccine. I am sharing my opinion on this topic for those who want to know it. If you do not care about my opinion, by all means you do not have to read this. You have a 100%, all-expense paid ticket to move right along without wasting another second of your day and we will be no less of friends because of it.
The purpose of this is NOT to cause controversy, to have an “open discussion,” to go viral, to make you feel bad about your decision, or to debate you in any shape of form. In fact, I will most likely have all forms of commenting turned off. If you know me and want to ask me a question, you probably have my number or are comfortable messaging me, and I welcome that. I can’t say this more clearly: this is purely if you want to know why I, as a mom, healthcare provider, and a Christian am choosing to have my kids vaccinated against Covid-19.
There are 3 main reasons my kids between ages 5-11 will get their vaccine this weekend.
- The safety and benefits significantly outweigh the risk
- Their education and mental health are at risk
- It allows us to protect our community and serve others
Safety (Benefit vs Risk)
The biggest concern for most people is likely the safety of the vaccine. I have said from the beginning I want to see the safety data before my kids get the vaccine. I have been waiting along with the rest of the medical community and now that it’s here, I am very reassured.
The study looking at this age group evaluated 3100 kids in the intervention (vaccine) group, and just over 1500 in the placebo group. The initial study numbers were actually intended to be smaller. However the, in their attempt to be as cautious as possible, the FDA asked for larger numbers. These are robust numbers here. The idea is to be able to catch events that might occur in 1 in 1,000 kids.
Some concerning things you may have heard about regarding vaccine-related injury are myocarditis, anaphylaxis, and neurologic disorders like Bell’s palsy or Guillain barre syndrome. There were exactly 0 cases of any of these reported in the study. Which is fantastic news! It’s really the best we could hope for.
Even so, I want to spend some time talking about myocarditis in particular because we know there have been vaccine-related cases in older groups. It’s important to know that because it’s so rare, there is a good chance it won’t be caught in a study this size. And the scientist were very open about that. I know it’s a concern of parents, so let’s take a closer look at this risk.
We know it is more common in males under 30, that if present it’s likely to after a second mRNA vaccine dose, and usually within 10 days of receiving it. The best data we have suggest 39-47 cases of vaccine-related myocarditis per one million second doses of mRNA vaccine among individuals 12-39 years of age. This means in this age group there is a 0.0039% chance of developing myocarditis. It’s not zero, but it is SMALL.
There’s another number that’s not zero. That number is 37. The number one cause of myocarditis is and has always been viral infections. It’s an inflammatory response that has been around long before Covid-19. Data now suggest that children under the age of 16 who become infected with Covid-19 are 37 times more likely to develop myocarditis compared to those who don’t. We also know that those who develop myocarditis from Covid-19 are sicker than those who may develop it after the vaccine. It’s also important to know that the overwhelming majority of these kids will recover.
The chance of developing myocarditis from Covid-19 is small. The chance of developing vaccine-related myocarditis is even smaller. This is not happening to multiple people you know. It just isn’t. This is what it means for the benefit to outweigh the risk. The vaccine for this age group is 90.7 % effective at preventing symptomatic disease, which keeps kids healthy, in school, and prevents them from spreading it to high risk individuals. The risk of developing an extremely rare event, of which most kids will recover from even if they do develop it, is small, and is actually more of a risk if they contract Covid-19.
My family somehow missed getting Covid-19 or having to quarantine for most of the pandemic, with the exception of my toddler whose daycare room is constantly closed. However last month my son chose the most untimely time to get Covid- the last day of Fall Break. His 10-day isolation on top of fall break had him out of school for two full weeks. My two other school-aged children were set to do a 10-14 day quarantine per school guidelines, however one week into my son’s isolation my husband tested positive with a breakthrough case. These two had to start their quarantine all over and by the end of it it all, between fall break and the extended quarantine, they were out of school for nearly three weeks.
God bless the teachers and our school who tried to accommodate us. I was so appreciative of the effort and know it was added work piled on top of their already busy schedules. However, I will simply state it was no substitute for in-person instruction. Not by a long stretch. We tried. They stayed on top of their assignments and reading, but as far as learning goes they were treading water. I’m thankful my kids are relatively self-motivated and that my husband and I had the time to work with them, which allowed us to tread water instead of sink all-together. I came away from our family’s quarantine with a renewed sense of how important it is to keep our kids in school.
We were lucky. My husband works from home and while I had to quarantine and wasn’t allowed to physically go to my office, I had some vacation time and was able to see a few patients virtually from home. We figured it out without taking a financial hit or using up a significant amount of vacation days. But this isn’t the case for everyone. Kids being out of school because of Covid-19 is having a significant impact on working parents.
The pandemic has also taken a toll on families and children in other ways. Last month, the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Children’s Hospital Association declared a national emergency in children’s mental health which they attributed to the pandemic. There is so much more to this than simply “getting a cold.” Anything we can do to decrease numbers of Covid-19 in both kids and adults as soon as possible is vital to the overall health of kids and adults.
It’s not about the individual
One of the most common arguments I hear regarding kids is how low their risk is for becoming seriously ill from Covid-19. And it’s true. The risk of serious illness or death in pediatric patient’s from Covid-19 is quite small (although it is also not 0- there have been over 879 pediatric deaths from Covid-19 in the US alone since the pandemic started). Some compare it to other viruses such as influenza, which we don’t shut the country down over. However, our sweet little children make up a significant number of Covid-19 cases. And while they may not develop severe symptoms, they can and do spread their little germs, despite our best efforts to keep them from doing so. My kids are so sweet, their great grandma just can’t help but pinch their cheeks and hug on them even though we’ve warned her to be careful. They’re so cute, the old folks at church insist on giving them high fives and bending over to meet them eye to eye, 6 inches from their face when they say hello. Make no mistake, our kids are helping spread this virus to people who will become severely ill. It’s not their fault, but it is a problem.
I care about our older folks at church, our neighbor with health issues who loves to interact with the kids, their teachers and coaches, their friends and friends’ parents. It’s not just about us. The primary thing I am trying to teach my children is to treat others how they would want to be treated and to live and love like Jesus. I’ve been spending lots of time in the Gospels lately. Luke is one of my favorite books, because he was a physician. He focuses a lot on the healing ministry of Jesus. Jesus had such a heart for the sick. The phrase often seen is, “He had compassion for them.” At this time, the data tells us the vaccine is safe, and if more people receive it, fewer people will contract it, spread it, suffer from it, or die from it. Personally, there is no scenario where my family lives out the mission of living and loving like Jesus without getting vaccinated. This is a personal statement from my heart, not a blanket one for everyone.
I’ll leave you with two more numbers. The first is 7.1 billion. Thats billion with a “b” and pinky finger on your mouth like Austin Powers when you say it. As of the time I’m writing this, 7.1 billion doses of Covid-19 vaccines have been given worldwide. It is safe. If you’re truly concerned about the individual risk of your child, I hope what I shared helps you make an informed decision, whatever that might be.
The second number is 5 million. More than 5 million mothers, fathers, children, and grandparents have died from Covid-19. We may be ready to move on from this virus, but it’s not ready to leave us yet. As I write, a sweet nurse I used to work with is fighting for her life in the ICU with Covid-19. A family member recently spent a month in the hospital with respiratory distress from Covid-19. She was not ventilated and sedated, but rather in agonizing discomfort 24 hours a day with the sensation she couldn’t breath. People are still suffering and dying, and we have an opportunity to collectively change that.
The decision for my family is clear. My kids are getting vaccinated to prevent getting sick, to stay in school and protect their mental health, and to protect others, and because there is little to no risk to them by getting it.