Since the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was approved for use in kids aged 5 to 11, articles have been plentiful about parents who aren’t sure about whether their children should take it.
Being parents ourselves, we know it’s natural to worry about the health and safety of our children. But those parental worries, coupled with our medical expertise, are exactly what fueled us to get our kids vaccinated as quickly as we could.
As physicians, with the holidays fast approaching and COVID-19 case numbers remaining high in Arizona, we unequivocally recommend getting your kids vaccinated. Here’s why.
1. The vaccine is safe for ages 5-11
First, let’s make it abundantly clear that the approved COVID-19 vaccine is safe for children 5-11. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized it for emergency use after studying more than 3,000 children who received it and had no serious side effects.
Claims that it causes infertility in kids (or adults, for that matter) are simply wrong – the vaccines affect immune systems, without any long term side effects, including to reproductive systems.
We chose to vaccinate our own kids because we understand vaccine science, and know that while they may get a temporary fever, sore arm and/or fatigue, serious adverse events are exceedingly rare. In fact, the risk of serious long-term health outcomes is far greater for children infected with COVID-19, which has been well established through this pandemic.
2. Kids are susceptible to COVID-19
Second, this safe and effective vaccine will help keep our kids healthy by substantially reducing the risk of getting seriously ill from COVID-19. The FDA found the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 90.7% effective in preventing COVID-19 infection in kids 5-11, and even more beneficial in reducing the severity of the disease.
Misconceptions and misinformation about children not being susceptible to COVID-19 abound. They are indeed susceptible. As the more infectious delta variant continues to circulate, the science suggests that children are at least as likely as adults to become infected.
At least 1.9 million children in America have been infected already, with 8,300 of them having to be hospitalized. And while post-COVID conditions are certainly frightening outcomes in children, COVID-19 recently tied as the eighth leading cause of death in the United States in children 5-11.
The vaccine is the best current tool we have to protect our precious children from unnecessary and preventable sickness, suffering and death.
3. We want some semblance of a normal life
Vaccinating your child also protects those around them and gets us closer to community immunity, when the level of virus in the population is so low that it’s unlikely to spread.
When children are vaccinated, they are far less likely to become infected and able to transmit the virus to others, including teachers, coaches, friends and family members. This is vitally important since Arizona is experiencing yet another surge in COVID-19 cases with hospitals remaining overwhelmed.
Make no mistake, it is thanks to this vaccine that our children can have an important layer of protection, and also protect others in their communities and our state.
While we tend to focus on saving lives first and foremost as physicians, we’re also Arizonans with families, and we want to be able to get back to some semblance of normal life and joyful holiday celebrations.
Having our young kids vaccinated means we can celebrate with our families at greater ease, including grandparents and immunocompromised relatives. When everyone in a family is vaccinated, indoor gatherings are far less risky.
Each of these reasons are why we chose, without misgivings, to get our own kids vaccinated. We hope other Arizonans will follow suit to protect themselves and others, and help us achieve a safe, joyous holiday season and beyond.
Cadey Harrel, MD, a mother of three, is a family physician and Arizona state lead for the Committee to Protect Health Care. Ravi Grivois-Shah, MD, a father of three, is a family physician and member of the Tucson Unified School District governing board. On Twitter: @CadeyHarrel, @RGrivoisShah.
This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Why, as doctors, we didn't wait to get our young kids vaccinated