As physicians and as parents, our message is simple: get your child vaccinated.
Health Canada’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children aged five to 11 is another crucial step towards leaving the pandemic behind and returning to normal. First, though, eligible children must get their shots in sufficient numbers to protect both themselves and our communities.
We have seen the social and physical devastation wrought by the fourth wave of the pandemic in deaths and hospitalizations, as well as proof of vaccination requirements and restrictions, including limits on visitors to our loved ones in care homes.
The fourth wave, spurred by the highly contagious Delta variant, appears to be subsiding. We should now do all we can to curtail a potential fifth wave this winter from Delta or other variants. Vaccinations have protected many and have mitigated deaths and hospitalizations. The approval for children aged five to 11 could be a game changer for all of us for the future. That might be an overused cliche, but it fits.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been rigorously reviewed by Health Canada. The vaccine’s approval for children was comprehensive and thorough. However, we understand why parents have concerns about vaccinating their children – we all want to do what is best for them. Children may also have questions. We urge parents to talk to their kids openly and honestly, and seek answers from trusted sources such as health professionals.
We have learned that 12- to 17-year-olds who have received shots experienced minor side-effects such as arm pain, fatigue, headache, and fever. These effects are short-lived. Side-effects in younger children have been minor to date, and as family physicians we will be monitoring the data closely. We repeat – please talk to your family doctor or primary care provider about your concerns.
As with adults, the risks of serious illness in children from COVID-19 are much greater than possible side-effects from the shot itself. Unvaccinated young children have been getting sick from the Delta variant. Many who end up in hospital have no comorbidities. Some have severe lung infections or complications that may require intensive care. Some develop long-lasting symptoms that are affecting their health and well-being. Although rare, COVID-19 can cause death in children.
Physicians can only do so much, especially for people who test positive. We have the means to the end of the pandemic. Vaccines have been and still are our best tool against the Delta variant, along with hand washing, masking, and physical distancing.
Saskatchewan has seen enough tragedy and death from COVID-19. Our children have endured through considerable adversity, and we can finally take action to keep them safe and work toward ending this pandemic. As physicians and as parents, we implore you to get your child vaccinated.
Dr. Eben Strydom is president of the Saskatchewan Medical Association. Dr. Myles Deutscher is president of the Saskatchewan College of Family Physicians.