Editor’s Note: Moira Szilagyi, MD, PhD, FAAP, is the president-elect of the American Academy of Pediatrics. The views expressed in this commentary belong to the author. View more opinion at CNN.
As a pediatrician and a grandmother, I have followed news of the clinical trials for the Covid-19 vaccines in younger children with great anticipation. My two grandchildren, ages 5 and 8, returned to in-person school this fall and while they wear their masks, I still feel an undercurrent of anxiety as they lack the best protection of all: vaccination.
I have practiced pediatrics for 41 years, and know well the power of vaccines in stopping the spread of disease and suffering, both for individual children and for entire families and communities. We’ve all seen this unfold in real time over the past few months. In May, when the US Food and Drug Administration authorized the Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in children 12 and older, millions of children were suddenly able to return to the activities that help them develop into the independent, creative and productive adults we want them to become. If you have a teenager in your life who got the vaccine, chances are you witnessed a remarkable transformation once they were able to safely reenter the world.
Now, I hope we will see a similar transformation for younger kids like my grandchildren. The FDA has scheduled a meeting later this month to consider authorizing the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use in children ages 5 to 11.
What I’m telling my daughter and son-in-law is the data on the vaccine is very reassuring. More than 13 million adolescents aged 12 to 17 have already received the vaccine, and there is a lot of evidence it is safe and effective. Now, nonpartisan scientific advisory boards at the FDA and the CDC will review the data from the clinical trials in children aged 11 and younger. This review is an important step and will ensure the dosage is correct, effective and safe for the younger age group.
I hope they determine the vaccine is ready. My family certainly is. We are already looking forward to the children having playdates with friends and engaging in sports again, as we look ahead and relish the possibility of celebrating holidays and birthdays together again.
We must dispel the notion that kids have not been harmed by Covid-19. They have missed school, been isolated from friends and family, and lost out on camp, sports and other activities. Nearly 6 million children in the US have been diagnosed with Covid-19, according to data collected by the American Academy of Pediatrics. More than 600 children have died, according to data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and tens of thousands more have lost a parent. With the vaccine, we can prevent more suffering.
To parents who are still hesitant about the vaccines, I urge you to talk with your child’s pediatrician or primary health care provider. They know your family and your child and can answer any questions you have. And if you are an adult who is not yet vaccinated, you can do your part too: get your questions answered and make a plan to receive the vaccine.
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Increasing the number of people of all ages who are vaccinated will make everyone and every community safer.