CHOP at Virtua Pediatrician Offers Advice For Parents Regarding Covid-19 Vaccines
Dr. Jeff Seiden issues COVID cautions as winter holidays approach
Nov. 23, 2021 - With Thanksgiving only days away and the December holidays close behind, Jeff Seiden, MD, is encouraging the families he cares for – and the people in his personal life – to pursue COVID-19 vaccination for their children ages 5 to 11. Children in this age group have been eligible to receive the two-part Pfizer vaccine (at a reduced-dosage) since early November.
“Families are eager to celebrate the holidays together, especially since many people remained apart last year,” he said. “That’s why we should take advantage of every available opportunity to minimize risk of acquiring or transmitting COVID-19. It’s wonderful that children as young as 5 can now receive protection.”
As an attending physician in the CHOP at Virtua Pediatric Emergency Department in Voorhees, Dr. Seiden has cared for children – including toddlers and babies – who have contracted COVID-19.
Dr. Seiden said that although most every COVID-positive pediatric patient he’s cared for has made a complete recovery, that does not lessen the emotional duress and other challenging circumstances experienced by these families.
“The child’s health is the most important thing, but we must also consider the fallout of days spent taking care of a sick child, possible emergency department visits or hospitalizations, medical bills, missed work and school – these things have consequences,” he said. “That’s why we should do everything we can to stop children from getting COVID in the first place.”
Looking ahead to winter, a season associated with a variety of communicable diseases and additional time spent indoors, Dr. Seiden expressed two notable concerns:
- Compounded illness. Children (and adults) are likely to experience worse symptoms and require more extensive medical intervention should they acquire two illnesses at once, such as both COVID-19 and the flu.
- Hospital capacity limits. Throughout the fall, many area health systems have reported uncommonly high patient volume. Should COVID-19, influenza, and seasonal ailments spike simultaneously, this would present a significant strain on health care resources, including staffing. Dr. Seiden said that hospital administrators might even be forced to ration beds.
When discussing the COVID-19 vaccines with parents, Dr. Seiden will sometimes encounter the following beliefs, and offers counter-responses based on his training, research, and experience.
- Misconception: The pandemic is ending, or will soon end on its own.
Dr. Seiden said that the longer we live with this virus, the greater the opportunity for variants to develop, and that the variants could become increasingly severe or transmissible, much like the delta variant.
- Misconception: The vaccines were rushed.
In speaking with infectious disease experts at CHOP and Virtua, Dr. Seiden said he has a profound appreciation for the rigorous process required to introduce vaccines to market. “It is a process that does not tolerate risk. It is inherently conservative and cautious. Nothing gets approved on a whim and everything is rooted in data and science,” he said.
- Misconception: The vaccines are too risky for kids.
Dr. Seiden said it is important to recognize that there is a risk with every vaccine or health care intervention. As the father of two fully vaccinated teenagers, he said that risk shouldn’t shut down the conversation, and instead it should serve as the starting point for a dialogue between provider and patient. He also feels strongly that the risks that come with acquiring COVID are far greater – and more worrisome – than the rare, limited risks associated with the vaccines.
One successful tactic Dr. Seiden has discovered for changing parents’ minds is appealing to their sense of social responsibility and supporting societal good.
“Those who can be vaccinated have an opportunity to protect those who are most vulnerable, such as babies and seniors,” he said. “I’ve found that kids are excited to be part of the solution. Kids love superheroes and princesses, and those characters provide examples of why we must defend and care for one another.”
How to get kids (and adults) vaccinated
COVID-19 vaccines are safe, free, effective, and widely available in South Jersey and beyond. To schedule a vaccine appointment, find a walk-up vaccine site, or for more information about vaccines and COVID-19, please visit https://www.virtua.org/services/covid19-updates.