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How I Decided To Vaccinate My Kids
Shelly Cohen, MD
As a physician, I am 100% pro-vaccine and I trust the science. As a parent, I am a self-proclaimed worrier. And as a psychiatrist, I listen to a lot of fears about uncertainty in general, and help people navigate their anxiety related to not knowing all the facts and outcomes about most things. All to say, I have a lot of empathy for the vaccine hesitant and understand that people’s fear surrounding vaccinating their kids is real, valid and to be respected.
So, I thought I’d share my thought process in coming to a decision to vaccinate my 7 and 5 year olds – not so much in an effort to convince people to vaccinate their kids, but because I think it is useful to have a framework in which to think about the decision when it is filled with uncertainty.
In talking to patients and friends (and myself), I have found that most parents are concerned with:
1. The lack of long term data
2. Immediate reactions
3. Necessity, since most kids don’t get very sick
Here is how I’ve weighed what we know with my fear of the unknown:
1. Long term effects: Clinical trials for 5-11 year olds followed children for 2 months post vaccine at the time that the FDA approved the vaccine. That is not a very long time. But, we have more than 12 months follow up for the mRNA vaccines (for adults) at this point with data that shows that short and long term side effects of the vaccine are less likely than known short and long term risks of COVID-19 infection.
It makes sense to me that a Covid infection would cause significantly more risk to both adults and children since mRNA is very fragile, disintegrates within 72 hours, cannot integrate into DNA and does not cause the actual pathogen to circulate. In the history of vaccines, serious adverse effects have happened within 2 months of rollout. For me, all this made the prospect of waiting for more data seem not as necessary.
2. Immediate reactions in children 5-11: Mild to moderate side effects can happen (mostly to the second vaccine) for 1-2 days. These include headache, fatigue, fever, diarrhea, chills, muscle pain, joint pain. Rare side effects include swollen lymph nodes and skin sensitivity.
3. Is it necessary? The vast majority of children have mild to moderate symptoms from Covid that resolve quickly. Hospitalization, ICU admission and death are all less common for children than adults, but still happen.
- As of Oct 2021, 1.9 million children aged 5-11 have been infected with Covid.
- 8300 children aged 5-11 have been hospitalized and approximately 1/3 of hospitalized children ages 5-11 require ICU admission.
- Between January 4, 2020 and December 11, 2021, 537 children ages 5-18 and 236 children ages 0-4 died from COVID in the US.
Reading through the data above led me to believe that benefits of vaccinating my kids outweighed the risks, known or unknown. I will share that my children have severe food and environmental allergies and I was terrified that they would have an allergic reaction. The data suggests this risk is exceedingly rare, but still, I decided to vaccinate them at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where I discovered all the very anxious parents of kids with allergies and autoimmune conditions. If you are concerned about any acute or immediate reaction for any reason or none at all, it’s reassuring to go where there’s a Pediatric ER down the hall! And again, it’s a highly personal decision and people come to different conclusions with the same data.
A final disclaimer that this is one psychiatrist’s thoughts on a pediatric medical issue, so please consult with your doctor for concerns about your child’s specific health needs.
Go to Myturn.ca.gov to schedule a vaccine if you are wanting to.
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Presented by Parents Against Vaping e-cigs (PAVe) and the District 10 PTSA:
E-CIGS & THE YOUTH VAPING EPIDEMIC: What parents and adults need to know for back-to-school 2021
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 25,10AM PST
By 10th grade, about 40% of youth have tried vaping. Behind the bright colors and sweet flavors of vapes are harmful chemicals and nicotine addiction. Join PAVe for everything parents and adult need to know to help avoid or quit using dangerous flavored e-cigarettes, including new devices and signs, health risks, and how to speak with your child.
Click to register: https//bit.ly/2WHtoCz
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Joel E. Cisneros, LCSW ǀ Director
School Mental Health
Student Health and Human Services
Los Angeles Unified School District
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