Even with lots of solid data supporting COVID vaccines, I understand why parents are nervous about vaccinating their young children. As a medical provider, I am never interested in forcing or convincing or swaying my patients. That’s not patient-centered care.
I share all the data I have, along with some thoughts based on my personal experiences, and then it’s up to patients to weigh the pros and cons and make whatever decision is right for them. I provide as much up-to-date, accurate information as I can, so patients can make an informed decision—I have no business deciding for others.
When it comes to getting vaccinated against COVID, I have lots of reasons to get the shot, and my own health isn’t at the top of the list. People I care about could have a hard time surviving a bad bout of COVID and if there is something I can do to lessen the risk, why wouldn’t I do that? How horrible would I feel if I could have prevented someone from suffering or even dying? This is my personal decision. It is why I’m passionate about getting vaccinated.
Interestingly, I’ve noticed that people sometimes evaluate the potential risks of vaccination without looking at what could happen if they don’t get the vaccine. Generally, when considering medical treatment, it’s best to consider the risks and benefits.
The hard truth is that almost all medical treatment comes with some measure of risk. However, when we’re dealing with a familiar treatment, the risks feel justified. COVID is still relatively new, so the risks scare us. When I consider the chance of catching COVID (highly likely) against the chance that I’ll be one of the incredibly rare few who gets myocarditis or Guillain Barre, getting vaccinated is a no brainer.
COVID can cause a whole host of serious problems—physical, neurological, cardiopulmonary, and financial. For me, the benefits far outweigh the risks. Do I know what will happen in future? No. Could the virus mutate? Yes. Will we need more boosters? Maybe. I don’t know what will happen next month or next year or decades from now, but based on the last couple of years, I’d say there is a high probability that we’ll all need some immunological support (like boosters) to stay healthy in our community.
As of today, all I can do is act on the information currently available when I make decisions for my own health and that of my children.
COVID isn’t going away; it’s becoming endemic (a disease that exists in the world) like so many others. This doesn’t make it less dangerous, but it does change how we manage it. Like dengue fever, rabies, influenza, and others, COVID will become an illness we must deal with. As medical professionals, we’ll recognize the symptoms and diagnose the problem, recommend treatment, and hopefully, develop preventions to keep people safe and healthy.
As kids grow, they will be in a world with COVID. Their immune systems are much smarter than ours. Theirs have better memories. With a COVID vaccine, my kids can be protected now and as they grow and develop throughout their lives.
The mRNA technology used for the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines has been around for about ten years and it is fantastic. It was developed on MERS, a virus similar to SARS-CoV-2 (the one that causes COVID), and it uses the body’s own machinery to create antibodies rather than injecting antibodies packaged in a lab. The new technology allows the body to do the heavy lifting, which enables vaccine manufacturers to put less stuff in the vaccines. These new vaccines are very clean. They are basically made of salt, sugars, fats, and mRNA—without the need for preservatives.
And scientists aren’t stopping there. Our ability to administer vaccines in different ways and continues to improve and safety profiles will only get better over time. If you think about the vast number of people who have been vaccinated, it’s mind boggling. Millions have received the mRNA vaccines, and the data are clear. These vaccines are overwhelmingly safe and effective.
If you have specific concerns about vaccinating your children, discuss them with your medical provider. Ask every question you can think of. Only then will you be able to make an informed choice that is right for you and your family. For my family, vaccination is the right choice.
Justin Ebert is the medical director at MCHC Health Centers, a community-based and patient-centered organization that serves Mendocino and Lake Counties, providing comprehensive primary healthcare services as well as supportive services such as education and translation that promote access to healthcare