Editor’s Note: Edith Bracho-Sanchez is a primary care pediatrician, director of pediatric telemedicine and assistant professor of pediatrics at Columbia University Irving Medical Center. She is also a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Before I had my baby, I thought I would be a relaxed mom. I remember watching other mothers sweating the small stuff and thinking to myself – no sir, not me, never me. I thought that in part because I’m a pediatrician. I had treated lots of children for seven years before I had my son, William, who is now 9 months old. Surely, I used to think, my knowledge as a pediatrician will help.
Much to my surprise, I became an anxious mom. I stress over every decision I make for William. I make long pro and con lists, I discuss everything with my partner, sleep on things and ultimately, I pray – hard – that I’m making the right choice. As silly as I feel sometimes, I know other parents feel the same way.
No matter your background or level of knowledge before becoming a parent, something happens in our brains when we find ourselves responsible for the well-being of a new little person. Every decision can suddenly feel monumental.
Knowing and even accepting that many parents do sweat the small and the big stuff, I thought many might struggle with the latest important parenting decision – vaccinating our children against Covid-19. Here’s why I have decided to vaccinate William.
First, Covid-19 is an unpredictable illness. While most children have minor symptoms and recover well, many have landed in hospitals and emergency rooms, and to date, more than 400 children under the age of 5 have died from the illness in the United States alone, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We also don’t yet fully understand the long-term effects of the disease, with new evidence still emerging.
To sleep as much as an infant allows one to sleep at night, I need to know that I have done everything in my power to protect my baby against a severe Covid-19 infection and the known and unknown long-term effects of the illness.
Second – and this is perhaps where it does help to be a pediatrician – I know the vaccine is in the body for a short period of time and with a specific mission. It instructs the body to make protective antibodies against Covid-19, and the body’s own cellular mechanisms quickly break it down soon after. Because of this, there really is no plausible way it will interfere with my little William’s development, something about which I am constantly thinking.
Lastly, in addition to believing in the rigorous process the vaccines went through to obtain approval, I believe the US Food and Drug Administration and CDC recruited some of the most brilliant minds of our time to serve on the independent panels that reviewed the data and recommended giving the vaccines the green light.
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I understand fear may continue to guide the choices of many fellow parents out there, just as I understand it may take more than one anxious mama sharing what makes her feel better for those same parents to feel confident and ready to vaccinate their kids.
To those parents, I have one message: I hope you can tune out the online chatter that constantly makes us question our choices and find instead a pediatrician who listens to and answers your specific concerns.