After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
These vaccines have met strict federal requirements for safety and effectiveness to be authorized and recommended for children as young as 6 months old.
Parents, I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to protect not just your children but others they come in contact with at home, school, day care, and elsewhere. I offer this advice not just as the 17th U.S. Surgeon General, a doctor, and a public health professor, but as a father, a grandfather, and an American.
In virtual town halls organized by ADHS, I’ve heard many understandable questions from parents about the need to vaccinate young kids when they are less susceptible to serious illness and death from COVID-19. It comes down to this: COVID-19 is now a vaccinatable disease, joining other diseases from which we protect children through vaccination.
Like measles, mumps, rubella, whooping cough, and other vaccinatable diseases, COVID-19 can cause severe illness and significant harm that can be prevented through vaccination. Regrettably, some children need hospitalization and some children die from COVID-19. Vaccines are designed to prevent that. They have been remarkably successful at protecting older children and adults from hospitalization and death.
Some parents wonder if their young children need vaccination if they’ve already had COVID-19. There is a lot we don’t know yet about COVID-19, including how long immune protection lasts after infection. The evidence to date suggests that people who have already had COVID-19 get better protection by also being fully vaccinated and up-to-date on any recommended booster doses. That’s why the CDC recommends that all children 6 months and older be vaccinated against COVID-19.
I understand if you have questions about the safety of these vaccines, and I applaud you for having them. Our children are our most precious possessions. But please, don’t base your decision on social media claims or political rhetoric disguised as medical opinion.
If you require more than endorsements from the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Medical Association, and so many other reputable sources, please, please ask your health care provider. I’m fully confident that she or he will tell you this:
Vaccines are arguably the most important scientific advance in the history of mankind. We have a long, long history of understanding how vaccines work, including how the mRNA vaccines approved for children work. Scientists who have independently studied and validated clinical data have determined that COVID-19 vaccines will protect children and that the benefits far outweigh any potential risks.
Do not forget, as well, that the start of the new school year will sneak up on us fast, so now’s the time to make sure kids are current on other childhood vaccines in addition to the COVID-19 vaccine.
We now have the ability to protect every American 6 months and older against COVID-19. This can further raise our country’s collective protection.
We can make it safer for our kids to hug a grandparent who is at greater risk from COVID-19. We can make it less likely that COVID-19 will disrupt your child’s day care or classroom.
The solution requires commitment from all of us.
The science is sound. The science tells us this is the right thing to do. Please give your children and our community the protection offered by COVID-19 vaccine. You’ll find providers listed at azhealth.gov/FindVaccine.
Dr. Richard Carmona, the 17th Surgeon General of the United States, is advising Governor Doug Ducey and the Arizona Department of Health Services on the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic and public health emergency preparedness. After serving as Surgeon General from 2002-2006, Dr. Carmona became vice chairman of Canyon Ranch, a Tucson wellness resort where he now serves as Chief of Health Innovations. A member of several corporate boards, Dr. Carmona also serves as the Distinguished Professor of Public Health at the University of Arizona’s Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health while also holding faculty appointments as a Professor of Surgery and Pharmacy.