When the COVID-19 vaccine was approved for ages 12–15 my daughter Stella was one of the very first in line. We were both elated that the she was eligible.
A conscientious student and committed gymnast, she has been meticulous about staying safe during her activities. She didn’t want to get sick, and she particularly didn’t want to risk passing the virus on to anyone. In a few weeks she’ll get to enjoy being a normal teenager again and I am so excited for her.
As a mom and a pediatrician, I think it’s important to share why medical experts are choosing to have their kids vaccinated—and why we’re recommending it to our patients.
For me, the biggest reason is that it protects kids’ health. While COVID-19 causes mild symptoms in most pediatric cases, some kids do die or experience lifelong damage to their brains, hearts, and lungs. New data is emerging showing that adolescents are being diagnosed with long-COVID, a condition with limited effective treatments. Infection can prevent kids from enjoying a normal, healthy life. I don’t want that for my children, and I don’t want that for my patients. COVID-19 vaccination is far safer for teens than getting the COVID-19 disease.
Vaccination also prevents people from passing the virus on and infecting vulnerable individuals. These could be infants and children who aren’t yet eligible for a shot or people with suppressed immune systems. My daughter and I both feel strongly that getting vaccinated is an act of service for our community.
What’s more, vaccination allows teens to return to the groups and activities that are so important for their social development. From age 12-18, kids are making connections and working on communication skills they will use for the rest of their life. Vaccination makes it safer for teens to be together in friend groups, in organized music and sports activities, and in other situations.
This is important because many teens may act independently, despite their parents’ wishes. Their brains are at the developmental stage where they are willing to take more risks. This increases teens’ likelihood of getting COVID-19 and spreading it to others.
One of the key benefits of vaccination for my family will be an ability to safely travel. Once my youngest is eligible for the vaccine I’ll feel comfortable taking everyone to visit the baby niece we have yet to meet. Being able to pursue new experiences and make memories as a family, while also safeguarding health, is vital to everyone’s well-being.
For parents who are still hesitant about the vaccine, I think it’s important to understand that my colleagues and I would never suggest a shot that is worse than the disease. Physicians recommend the vaccine because current data shows it’s truly safer for kids than getting sick.
We also understand that doing nothing—maintaining the status quo—can feel less risky. But inaction isn’t inherently safe. In this case, choosing to do nothing leaves adolescents vulnerable. I encourage parents to bring up any vaccination concerns they have with their pediatrician so they can get the information they need to make an informed decision.
With Clark County COVID-19 cases up significantly over the past two months, and masking ending in many situations, I encourage parents not to delay getting teens vaccinated. The sooner they get the shot, the sooner they will be protected. To get your child vaccinated at Vancouver Clinic, start here.
Dr. Devon Ebbing is a pediatrician at Vancouver Clinic. She enjoys working with patients and their families to develop the right care plans for their unique needs.