Words from Pediatricians Serving as Advocates for Children
By Josephine Reid
Whether a parent, teacher, or family friend, you have seen at least one effect that this pandemic has had on children, including developmental issues, the widening education gap, and fewer wellness visits. In the United States, more than 5 million children have gotten COVID-19 and more than 763 have died from the disease. Since Delta, 1 in 5 new COVID-19 cases have been in children.
Vaccinating children who are ages 5 and older can help protect kids and slow the spread of COVID-19 and is another step in getting this pandemic under control.
Parents, teachers, and friends play a crucial role in getting kids back on track and giving them a real chance to experience childhood in its true sense.
With all of these jarring numbers and heartbreaking stories on the toll the pandemic has taken on children, one may ask who to turn to as a medically sound voice that can provide factual, science-based information.
As COVID-19 vaccines are now available to kids ages 5 and older, we spoke with Black pediatricians who serve as trusted advisors for their patients’ parents, and as advocates for every child that steps into their offices.
We asked these local trusted messengers to comment on expected changes if all children who are eligible are vaccinated.
We spoke with Dr. Nina Ford Johnson, MD FAAP, who has worked in infirmary pediatrics for eight years and serves as the President of the Medical Society of Mobile County, Alabama.
“Some of the problems we’re seeing in the unvaccinated children is that they’re spreading the illness to parents and grandparents. We’re seeing a lot of them miss school because of it. And not just the child, but their siblings also miss out.
Children that [do become vaccinated], I think it’s going to turn [things] around. We need to be able to keep kids in school. Our school system here in Mobile was already far behind.
Also, [vaccinations] will decrease the amount of infectivity among the adults and grandparents. It takes a village to raise our children, and this virus has become a village virus.”
Dr. Johnson’s words provide a window into the experiences of those who have been on the front lines of fighting COVID-19 in children.
Some parents also have concerns about COVID-19 vaccines that are often not addressed by trusted voices who have cared for our children from the beginning of their lives.
We spoke with pediatrician Dr. Felicia Wilson, who shared impactful stories about patients she has truly cared for from birth to present day and described some of her young patients looking to her as another parental source.
“I have seen hesitancy in parents, in fact some of those parents are parents that themselves got vaccinated. But they sort of felt like ‘I lived a good life, I’ve had my children, I don’t plan to have anymore – but I’m worried about the fertility of my children or some unforeseen thing that may come up years later.’ I’ve also seen parents that want to get their children vaccinated because they’ve been through COVID-19 themselves.
I take care of a fragile population of kids who have blood disorders and cancer, so many parts of this new way of life including masks and isolation is already a part of their lives. So, a number of those parents want to get their children vaccinated.
We already promote annual vaccinations with the flu, so we’re saying this is no different, other than the fact that we’re in a pandemic we’re trying to get out of.”
Dr. Wilson and others like her offer perspectives on highly vulnerable populations of children with major health issues, whose lives depend on themselves and others getting vaccinated when eligible.
We also spoke to Dr. Antwan Hogue, MD who gave his thoughts on vaccinations for children.
“I have seen some hesitancy – even in myself, I questioned whether or not I would vaccinate my own children. The more I dove into the studies and research that support getting the vaccine; without hesitation, when my children are of age, and when the guidelines support my kids getting the vaccine, I won’t hesitate to do so.
It’s crucial that we get as many kids vaccinated as we possibly can to get this pandemic under control.”
The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on this generation can be lessened if we can protect our most at-risk populations and encourage everyone who is eligible to get vaccinated.
Talk to your child’s doctor or nurse to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines or visit https://www.vaccines.gov/.