Dr. Thomas K. Lew
| Opinion contributor
FDA clears updated COVID boosters for younger kids
U.S. health officials have given the green light for elementary school-age kids to get updated booster doses from both Pfizer and Moderna. (Oct. 12)
An elderly but healthy woman who normally walks laps around her senior center fell to the ground, too weak to get up. A man with dementia stopped eating and started becoming violent with his loved ones. And a middle-aged unvaccinated woman is hanging onto life on a ventilator.
In the past few months, I have taken care of these patients in the hospital and many like them.
What they all have in common is that their ailments were set off by a COVID-19 infection, with each likely transmitted by a young infant. Infected at daycare or trip to the supermarket, these young children passed the virus on a visit to their aunt, their uncle, their grandmother, or grandfather.
With the recent FDA emergency use authorization of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines for children under 5, it is vitally important we get our littlest ones protected against COVID-19, not just for them, but also for vulnerable adults throughout the nation.
Almost 2 1/2 years since the start of the pandemic, life is showing signs of returning to normalcy, with mask mandates dropping around the nation. But that does not mean COVID-19 is not still circulating and causing mortality and morbidity.
Well over 1 million Americans have died from COVID-19 and several hundred are added to that number every day. Cases and hospital admissions are on the uptick, as the virus causes respiratory failure or sets off and worsens other medical conditions. The newest sub-variants of Omicron are more infectious than ever, and even with prior infections, people are getting COVID-19 infections again.
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Safeguarding kids means protecting adults
Vaccines still remain our best protection against serious disease, hospitalizations, and death. Again and again, these vaccines are proven to be overall safe, effective and life-saving. And at a time when forecasts from the CDC indicate continued increases in COVID-19 deaths and hospital admissions, having this protection is more important than ever.
The expansion of the emergency use authorization of vaccines to the youngest children will be particularly crucial in helping to curb further damage from the persistent coronavirus. Children in daycares and schools across the country are becoming infected, with almost 6 million cases in 2022 alone. While in most children, it is a minor illness, there have been many who have been hospitalized and died.
The doses of the Moderna and BioNTech vaccines are smaller for children but still protective. And in safeguarding our children, we also help protect ourselves. If vaccinated kids have a much smaller risk of infection and do not get it in the first place, they cannot then pass it on to their visiting grandparents or other high-risk, vulnerable adults.
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Ignore DeSantis, other anti-science stunts
Do not believe the vocal anti-science crowd, driven by politics, such as Florida governor, Ron DeSantis. Much to the dismay of doctors, public health officials, and parents everywhere, he has directed his state department to not pre-order vaccines for children, significantly slowing down the effort to protect Floridians of all ages. His reasons are political, anti-science, and dangerous.
These vaccines have undergone the same rigorous testing and safety standards as all vaccines and medications. No one wants to risk the lives of children, but the vaccines are safe. The bigger risk is actually catching COVID-19 or worse, having their parents and caretakers become deathly ill from the virus.
DeSantis.and other critics are angry voices adding to the noise against what are incredible, near-miraculous vaccines that can protect children and adults alike.
Don’t listen to them.
If we had had these vaccines for children earlier, all three of my patients could have avoided hospitalizations. Thankfully, they all made it home alive, but I certainly have had many cases that ended in tragedy.
Please vaccinate your children against COVID-19 and help protect them and our most vulnerable.
Dr. Thomas K. Lew is an assistant clinical professor of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine and an attending physician of Hospital Medicine at Stanford Health Care – ValleyCare. All expressed opinions are his own. Follow him on Twitter @ThomasLewMD