6 Ways Covid Vaccine Hesitancy is Harming Children (Pedcast by Doc Smo and Sonya Corina Williams)

Photo Compliments of Eleanor’s Family

 

As things stand right now, there are only two ways out of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic: wait until everyone has gotten infected resulting in about 3,500,000 Americans dying and countless others becoming chronically ill or protect our population and children as soon as possible by means of a vaccine. You see, your children’s health and well-being depend on adults opting for vaccination. Stay tuned and I will explain why.

Musical Introduction

Decision Time is Here

As they say where I live, it’s time to fish or cut bait. We are fortunate to have two highly effective vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and more in the pipeline that will likely be coming soon. We know the vaccines work and we know they are free from serious short term side effects. As of the time of this writing, which is only a month into the U.S. vaccine campaign, illness numbers in my community of Charlotte N.C. are already starting to fall quite significantly, especially among the health care workers who have been the first to get vaccinated. If you are part of the rest of the population, soon it will time for you to make the big decision… will you get vaccinated? I’m begging you to say yes to that question. In fact, I am making this podcast with the intention of using my name and my influence to convince you to go ahead and get vaccinated as soon as it is available to you. Let me explain to you why this is so important, especially for children.

Children are Being Harmed by SARS-CoV 2

As you are probably aware, children aren’t dying in large numbers from this coronavirus pandemic thank goodness but they are being harmed, nevertheless. Here is a short list of what many children are facing as a consequence of the pandemic- sleep problems, bodily complaints secondary  worry, depressive thoughts if not outright depression, as well as anxiety and panic attacks.  We also know that not being in school has led to other things that can harm children- fewer reports to social services of child abuse and neglect by teachers, fewer meals being provided at school to children whose families are struggling to feed them, and less time in the secure, safe, enriched environment that schools provide for a child. And what about the loss of quality education and social time in school? How does a child make up for a year of subpar learning and socialization with their peers? The answer is that they likely can’t. Time will tell what effects this has on today’s children, but I as a pediatrician who has spent his adult life with children of all ages, I can tell you that the loss of in-school time for today’s children won’t be positive for most and is likely to be devastating for many.

What the Numbers Show

So, you can see that the quickest way back to normalcy for children is through the administration of effective Covid-19 vaccines to at least 70% of the adult population. But unfortunately, for numerous reasons, acceptance of Covid vaccines by Americans is lukewarm at best. Here is a chart with the numbers from a recent survey published in Scientific American.

 

What is Causing People to Hesitate about Vaccination?

So, what is causing people to hesitate about getting one of the Covid-19 vaccines? What is at the basis of their hesitancy? I’m sure you have heard of some of the wild rumors going around- the vaccine may, instead of preventing the disease, actually infect you or, the vaccine actually contains a microchip that allows the government to track your whereabouts through cells towers or, this is corporate America’s way of using the U.S. population for biologic experiments. I’ve got to tell you; I haven’t heard so much paranoid thought since I was a medical student interviewing schizophrenics on the locked psych ward. Has the stress of the pandemic, with the help of social media, tipped a large segment of our population into  paranoid thinking, devoid of attachment to reality? Or, are we simply being bombarded by confusing messages that are generating fear and causing a paralysis of rational thought. We have well done science, completed by some of the best minds of our time, that shows us that the currently available vaccines are safe and extremely effective. What is the problem?

How Do We Get Vaccine The Vaccine Hesitant to Get a Shot?

So how do we get past vaccine hesitancy and end this pandemic? How can we get 70% of the population immune to SARS-CoV-2 without having to watch 70,000,000 of our fellow citizens get seriously ill or dying? We can’t let that happen to them and we must do everything in our power to convince the “vaccine hesitant” to get vaccinated. With that goal in mind, I have made up a list of things we can do to get life back to normal:

  1. We  need to have influencers like movie stars, athletes, doctors, teachers, community leaders, and politicians show confidence in the vaccines by demonstrating confidence in the vaccines and even getting vaccinated in public.
  2. And here is a suggestion that has been shown to be effective and increasing the rate of flu vaccination- don’t wait for people to arrange a vaccine but rather make them appointments for their vaccine and remind them frequently to follow through. This strategy has been shown to be amazing effectively at increasing vaccine rates for influenza. In other words, make people opt out rather than opt in. For those having difficulty making a decision, where the decision is a close one, this may be very helpful.
  3. We need a national messaging campaign reminding everyone that the vaccines are safe and effective and that getting vaccinated is a lifesaving act, not only for themselves but for their fellow citizens.
  4. What to do about misinformation on social media…well, frankly I don’t know.
  5. Overcoming the reluctance of minority communities to get vaccinated will require special finesse. I personally believe that reluctance in these communities can be overcome if, again, a large number of the influencers, in those communities, stepped up and put out pro vaccination messages.
  6. Confidence can be built by giving the American public the most transparent information available about the vaccines that are in use, including any problems that may arise.  This is crucial for vaccine success and will be important at building trust in the vaccines and the companies and agencies developing and administering those vaccines.
  7. We can all encourage our friends and families to get out and get vaccinated. Maybe we do that by helping them find vaccine administration sites, helping them make an appointment, by telling them how easy vaccination actually is, or even by helping them arrange transportation.
  8. And finally, listen to three year old Eleanor explains what happens when you do get a Covid-19 shot!

Conclusion

So that’s my plea. We have a short window of time to roll up our sleeves and take control of a terrible situation. I’ve been fortunate enough to get a Covid-19 vaccine already as have most of my healthcare worker colleagues. I still haven’t heard any vaccinated doctors or nurses regret their decision. Soon it will be your turn. Please think beyond yourself and make the effort to get vaccinated. Everyone will benefit, especially our children.

 

Outro

Thank you for joining me for this important episode of Portable Practical Pediatrics. Let’s all do our part and put this terrible pandemic behind us. The choice is clear, we either become immune to SARS-CoV-2 via vaccination or by allowing it to slowly roll through our population with devastating consequences for everyone. For me, it’s a no brainer. I hope it is for you too. Please start today and make the effort to get everyone you know who is old enough to put an end to Covid-19  by choosing to vaccinate. This is Dr. Paul Smolen also known as Doc Smo, hoping you don’t hesitate, to go ahead and vaccinate. Until next time.

Many thanks to Dr. Monica Miller, Dr. Charlotte Rouchouze for their help in writing this pedcast. And of course, a very special thanks to Eleanor’s family for allowing me to share her medical wisdom.

 

 

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