Dr. Hiral Tipirneni, Emergency Medicine Physician, discusses the White House's plan to vaccinate 28 million kids under age 12.
- Doctor it's good to see you again. These details that we're getting from the White House, just in terms of how they plan on going about getting children ages 5 through 11 vaccinated-- what's your reaction to it?
HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Well, it's good to be with you. And look, I'm thrilled. This is very good news. We have, as you said, 28 million children that can potentially be protected, now, from the virus. As we know, schools are in session. Most of them are in person.
We know that there has been an uptick in pediatric cases of COVID. So this is incredibly good news, that, we will now be able to protect one of our most vulnerable populations. Children between 5 and 11 can now be protected and be safer. So this should be certainly, reason to celebrate across the nation, certainly for parents, school teachers, and anyone who has a child and their family. This is great news because we've been worried for quite some time now that one age group that is still waiting to be vaccinated.
Obviously, we still have children under the age of five. But this is great news. 28 million children could be vaccinated over a short period of time. And as you mentioned, they're going to be making this vaccine available at a huge number of pediatric clinics and other medical settings. So there is really no reason that children can't be safely vaccinated and be protected from this virus.
- Doctor, when you say a short period of time, that 28 million, because we've had inoculation programs that have been quick and hit millions of people-- is there an actual time frame? Is it one month, is it two months if everything were to go well?
HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Well, I believe they're looking at that first weekend of November to actually have full FDA approval to go forward. And at that point-- and I know so many physicians, certainly pediatricians, and family docs who are ready, who are ready to have those vaccines in their clinics and be able to administer those. As you know, we have vaccines available in pharmacies and drugstores all across our nation. And we can have them set up in school settings as well.
So there is not a clear time frame in which we can administer all of these. But I know that the effort will be strong, will be efficient. And the goal is to get them vaccinated as soon as possible. Let's realize we have the holidays coming up. Probably, families will be gathering. The sooner we can protect our kids and therefore, protect those around them, the better off we all are.
- Doctor, you mentioned the holidays. What's your stance, I guess, what do you expect to see over the next couple of months? Because I think there's some worry out there now that families will feel more comfortable gathering in larger numbers, that we could potentially see a jump in cases. Is that what you're expecting to see?
HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Well, I think you know knowing the situation of people being certainly in cooler temperatures, more likely to be inside, that does lend itself to the higher risk of transmission. As we know, this is transmitted through aerosolized droplets and in the air. And therefore, it's going to be very important to be mindful of who you're gathering with.
Are those folks immunized? Are they immunocompromised? Are they at greater risk for infection? Masking indoors is still something that people should be considering if they're not clear on the folks that they're gathering with to make sure that everybody is truly safe.
And obviously, the other risk right now is it's flu season. So I want to encourage everyone to go out there and get their flu vaccine. Because that is always a concern. And as you know, last year, we were able to tamp down the number of flu cases considerably. It was a huge impact on not just health care and just folks' morbidity and mortality.
But also, this was an economic impact, that we were able to limit the number of folks that had to stay off of work or kids that couldn't go to school, the costs on hospitals and health care systems. So it is another important factor to remember. Please get your flu shot and protect yourself. Because this is that season that we have to be very mindful.
- Doctor, what goes through your mind when a noted public figure-- I'm thinking of Dennis Prager-- tells his millions of followers-- and he's very popular, and he's not an ignorant individual-- but tells them that he intentionally got COVID, because he personally believes natural immunity is better. What goes through the minds of doctors and people in your profession when they hear someone like that doing that?
HIRAL TIPIRNENI: Quite honestly, it's not just disappointing. It's terrifying, because that is not the advice that any medical professional or any scientist would give to any member of our society or our community or our family. We have seen the data very clearly. The number of cases that are predominantly showing up in ERs and hospitals and ICUs and on ventilators, are of unvaccinated people. There is no doubt that this vaccine is incredibly safe and highly effective.
Is it 100%? No, but what it does is it limits the rate of transmission. If you do get the COVID virus even though you're vaccinated, the chances of you getting sick are less. The chances of you getting sick enough to require hospitalization is much, much decreased. And the chances of you getting critically ill, requiring ventilation or dying are incredibly small. So everything about this vaccine says it protects you, it is safe, it is effective. It protects those around you.
And remember, our nation suffered a great loss this week with the passing of Secretary Colin Powell. This gentleman was of elderly age, 84 years old, I believe and underlying cancer and had undergone several treatments and so forth, which left him very immunocompromised. This is exactly why it's so important that everybody get vaccinated, because you are not just protecting yourself. You're protecting everyone around you.
Everything we can do to limit community spread helps not just you, but helps everybody in your community, especially those that are vulnerable, such as those, right now children, who are not vaccinated, and those elderly folks who are much more vulnerable, and those immunocompromised, people who've had cancer, organ transplants, who have been on immunosuppressive therapy autoimmune disorders-- all of those folks. We need to protect ourselves, as well as all of them.