This opinion piece by Dr. Sheala Jafry appeared in The Detroit News. Read more here.
As a family physician, I have seen firsthand the importance of the COVID-19 vaccine in reducing coronavirus cases and returning us to normalcy. Nearly 68% of Michigan residents have been part of this effort and received at least one dose of the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.
I’m grateful that some of our most vulnerable family members, children under the age of 5, are now eligible to get vaccinated.
Vaccines have proven to be lifesaving. Meanwhile, our children, including my youngest family members and patients, have waited patiently to reap the benefits, and I’m excited that the opportunity is now available to them. After living through this pandemic with close family too young to be vaccinated, I am so grateful that the wait is over.
For so many families I see, this vaccine is the final piece of the puzzle they’ve been waiting for. Until now, families with children under 5 have had to decide the level of risk they were willing to take on — whether to see grandparents or go to a highly-crowded event with a lot of people.
Following a thorough review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices supported the FDA’s authorization for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines as safe and effective for children under age 5.
Although many children with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, some children can get severely ill and require hospitalization. As family doctors, we have seen this in our own practices too often the last few years. Studies have found that persistent, long-term symptoms can affect children who have both mild and severe cases of COVID-19.
We have seen rare cases of children contracting multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, in which various body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes or gastrointestinal organs. Along with precautions, such as social distancing, hand washing and mask wearing, the pediatric vaccine may help to protect children from COVID-19 and MIS-C.
As COVID-19 cases persist in our area, our youngest children need protection. The protection of this vaccine can save them from the effects of a serious case of COVID-19, possible long-term harm of COVID-19 and from spreading the disease to family members.
Many families I see have questions about vaccines, and I welcome the conversation. A common question I’ve heard from parents is whether their child should get vaccinated if they’ve already had COVID-19, and the answer is yes.
While COVID infection has been shown to provide some protection against the virus, the level and length of that protection varies. Moreover, studies have shown that people can get added protection by getting vaccinated after having been infected.
However, children should wait three months after COVID infection before receiving the vaccine.
I am hopeful that parents will consult with their child’s doctor and get their children under 5 vaccinated now that it is available to everyone ages 6 months and older, so that they too are safe and protected against COVID-19.
Sheala Jafry is a family medicine physician with Beaumont Health Family Medicine Residency Clinic in Sterling Heights. At Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine she also serves as co-director of ambulatory education and recruitment, and she is assistant professor of family medicine and community health.