Pediatricians are gearing up to vaccinate the nation’s youths

Now that both the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have given the green light to Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency children ages 12 to 15, pediatricians will soon be at the forefront of the nation’s vaccination efforts. end up. play an essential role in communicating to parents about the safety and importance of having the chance to have their children.

That’s a tall order for paediatricians who say they are facing skyrocketing vaccination hesitation in families.

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“It’s not like I can just send a big message that says, ‘Everyone’s getting your flu shot!'” Said Dr. Natasha Burgert, a pediatrician in Overland Park, Kansas, and a national spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. “It’s difficult, especially for those of us who communicate with these families every day.”

While it’s true that young people are unlikely to get very sick from Covid-19, they can still harbor the virus and spread it to others. On May 6, more than 3.8 million cases of Covid-19 had been reported in children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That’s about 14 percent of all US cases.

Still, according to a recent poll by a research consortium called the Covid States Project, nearly half of the parents surveyed said they had no intention of giving their children the Covid-19 vaccination. Many of the vaccine’s opponents cited concerns that the shots are not safe.

It’s pediatricians who need to address those concerns.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing, doctors say, because families tend to stay with one pediatrician for years and develop trust along the way. And pediatricians are incredibly well versed in the safety and importance of all childhood vaccines.

“This is the office you’ve taken your child to since he was born,” said Dr. Sonja O’Leary, medical director of the Denver Health School-Based Health Centers. “With the Covid vaccine, parents will have many questions about vaccinating their children. Hearing the answers from someone they have trusted for their child’s life can have a big impact.”

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Related: Recent missteps by the CDC have clouded public health coverage of what some experts call a precarious moment in the course of the pandemic.

Currently, answering questions about the vaccines is one of the few things pediatricians can do as injections are not yet available in their offices. Burgert said it would be impossible for her private practice to order and store a large amount of the Pfizer vaccine – although that would be the best scenario, as it would allow children to have the shot in a familiar environment. from someone they know and trust.

“Pediatricians are experts in the communication, delivery and administration of vaccines,” said Burgert. Still, even without her own supply, Burgert is focused on guiding families to other Covid-19 vaccination sites, including local children’s hospitals, pharmacies, health departments and school clinics.

However, not all families need the guidance of a pediatrician.

Janet Kinzey, from Athens, Georgia, enrolled her 15-year-old son Zachary for the vaccine as soon as possible Tuesday – eager to get him back to normal.

Image: Zachary, 15, received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine in Athens, Georgia on Tuesday. (Clark Jarett)

“My son hasn’t been in a classroom for over a year. He’s barely seen his friends,” Kinzey said. “Today was the first big step back to a normal life for him.”

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Dr. Clark Denniston, a family physician and associate professor of family medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, said the patients he is concerned about forgoing the vaccines are the ones who don’t show up for appointments or even to ask questions. . , to start with.

Denniston and his team at Chapel Hill have been proactively contacting parents about getting the Covid-19 vaccinations for their children through a web portal, as well as mailings sent the old-fashioned way.

And he changes the way he communicates with families.

“Thirty-five years ago, we were trained not to share our own personal experiences with patients,” said Denniston. “But it really makes it human to them when my patients hear me say, ‘I got the vaccine, my wife got the vaccine, my 90-year-old dad got the vaccine.”

“It’s a way of connecting with patients that makes my recommendation a little bit more reliable,” he said.

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