We are now 15 months into the COVID-19 pandemic. We have experienced isolation, school closings, county-wide lockdowns, travel restrictions, illness, loss of employment and financial stability, loss of child care, loss of loved ones, fear, anxiety, and depression--and the list goes on and on. We have witnessed the world come together, working together and sharing information to develop a vaccine.
Here in the Finger Lakes Region, our 7-day positivity rate is decreasing and more than 60% of our population have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccines. Credit is due to our amazing department of health, mayor’s office, county executive’s office, our medical community, and our community.
Currently, the COVID-19 vaccines are available to eligible individuals 12 and older. Our community has done a fantastic job of vaccinating, which has been no easy task. In these unprecedented times, our community has come together collectively to slow down the spread of COVID-19 and end this pandemic.
Not only am I a mother of a 10 and 13-year-old, but I am also a pediatrician that provides care in the office, the hospital, and the schools. Naturally, I am an advocate for the well-being of our pediatric population.
The single most effective measure I could take to keep my kids safe from COVID-19--besides wearing my mask, good hand hygiene, and social distancing when possible--was to vaccinate myself. Getting vaccinated not only protect me, but most importantly I was helping to protect my children, my family, my patients, and my community.
Getting my vaccine was a very emotional experience to me because of what it represented. It represented a means to reducing the spread of COVID and a chance to return to normalcy. It represented all the collective scientific research, efforts, and advancements by our medical and research communities to keep the world’s population safe. Lastly, it represented hope.
My son accompanied me when I received my second dose of the COVID vaccine. I wanted him to be a part of such a historic and emotional event. I wanted him to witness me doing my part for our family and our community.
I watched how my children’s social-emotional health was impacted by the numerous restrictions on school, socialization, travel, and play. My children were also fearful of the unknown and the impact on our family's health and stability.
We were supportive in the reopening of the schools and returning to school in person with the appropriate and proper safety protocols and precautions. We all needed this for our social-emotional health. My children needed social interaction with their peers and, not to mention, a routine. Wearing their masks became part of the normal routine.
Currently, the Pfizer vaccine is fully approved by the FDA for ages 16 years and older; it remains under emergency use authorization for children ages 12-15. Hopefully, Moderna is not too far behind in its approval for children. As parents, we could not wait for the day our children were eligible for the COVID vaccines.
My 13-year-old son has received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. To him, it means fewer restrictions and better protection against serious illness from COVID. He can’t wait to not wear his mask, especially when playing basketball.
The question I get asked often is if the COVID vaccine is safe for children. Please remember that even though fewer children than adults have been infected by COVID, children can still get infected with COVID, get sick from COVID, and spread COVID. Vaccination is a critical tool to help stop the pandemic and get back to normalcy.
The vaccine is safe, effective, and helps protect from severe illness. I trust the science behind this vaccine. The vaccine was evaluated by thousands of participants in clinical trials. It met the FDA’s rigorous scientific standard of safety and effectiveness. Just like any other vaccine, any side effects or adverse reactions are reported to the VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System) or V-safe (web-based text messaging app to the CDC).
With my son fully vaccinated, I am relieved that he has an extra layer of protection. Since my daughter is not yet eligible for vaccination, as a family we will continue to wear masks and social distance for her protection and others who are not vaccinated. Hopefully, before the next school year starts, my daughter too will be eligible for vaccination.
I urge families who are considering vaccinating their children against COVID-19 but still have questions regarding the vaccination to connect with their pediatrician, primary care provider, or trusted medical professional who will provide factual, accurate information.
LeKeyah Wilson, MD
Pediatrician, Rochester Regional Health
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