Tag Archive for: COVID

Pediatricians, the Pandemic, Politicization and Polarization

Almost everything about the COVID-19 pandemic has been politicized: mask wearing, school re-opening, vaccination development, social distancing protocols, and many other public health and scientific efforts and recommendations. This politicization undermines public health efforts, science, and public trust. It also creates a polarization that makes dialogue, trust building and any progress forward very challenging. Most critically, this politicization and the ensuing polarization harm the health and well-being of children. While less impacted by morbidity and mortality due to coronavirus, children have borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic in a myriad of ways, from watching family members cope with illness, unemployment and other challenges, to social isolation and academic disruption due to school closures. In the spring of 2020, with the coronavirus racing around the globe, most US schools shut down for in-person learning, affecting over 50 million public school students.   

Photo by Deleece Cook on Unsplash

Let’s focus on school reopening. One year later, many communities are still grappling with when and how to send students, teachers and staff safely back to school. What started as two weeks of school closures has evolved into a yearlong debate that has become politicized and polarized. Communities are seeing parents, teachers’ unions, school boards, and school districts plunged into conflict. As spring turns to summer and school districts release plans for the fall, families will need to weigh the risks and benefits of returning to school in-person. And we’re asking families to do it during a time of tremendous conflict and controversy. 

If ever there was a moment for pediatrics, this is it. Pediatrics is part of the solution to politicization and polarization. Our exam rooms and our interactions with families create a space for open dialogue and honest communication. Families face a barrage of information from traditional and social media sources, as well as their friends, family members, and communities. Our exam rooms, our video visits, our phone calls with patients and family members – these are all spaces where we can remove polarization and politicization of issues like return to in-person schooling and apply a family-first focus. Much has been written about what we can do at a policy level, and much controversy remains, but let’s focus on the practice level. 

The conversation with every patient and family about return to in-person school is going to be individual and nuanced. We must provide our patients the space, a safe space, to express their concerns about in-person school and virtual school. We can help families weigh the risks and benefits in their own family, and for each child, of different school options. We can share what we’ve learned about coronavirus and school safety. We can discuss how to best meet each child’s needs, by considering their academics, their nutrition, their physical activity, their socialization. And we can help families figure out what kind of return to school is going to work best for their child – virtual, hybrid, in-person, or even a slow ramp up to an in-person experience. Our visits with patients and families can focus on their unique questions and considerations, not the broader public debate and discord. 

Let’s not let this opportunity pass us by. Families are counting on us to be the safe space focuses on their child, and their family. Let’s make our practices the prescription for politicization and polarization. 


Header Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

How Health Professionals Can Address COVID-19 Vaccine Misinformation  

Since the COVID-19 vaccine was authorized for children 12 years of age and older, I have had multiple conversations regarding the COVID-19 vaccine with my patients and their families. 

During one encounter, I asked my adolescent patient and his mother about their willingness to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at his annual check-up. He hesitantly said yes while his mother sternly said no. I attempted to further explore the reasons why, but she preferred not to discuss. In another encounter when I brought up the vaccine, the mother said she was waiting for additional information to be released before she put something unknown into her or her child’s body. Of course, I understand their hesitancy, but it is often rooted in misinformation. I often think – how can we as clinicians do better to curb this lack of confidence? It is not easy, but it can be done.  

I feel triumphant when families agree to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because these conversations are often challenging. Many parents are firmly set in their decision to refuse the vaccine, fueled by a barrage of negative information and perspectives. The rapid spread of ideas, images, and stories via the web, social media, and the news has led to increasing health misinformation and disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine’s side effects and effectiveness. This is an ongoing battle that we as clinicians face every day. This misinformation lowers vaccine confidence and puts our population’s health at risk. 

Despite efforts to prevent the spread of health misinformation, COVID-19 cases are increasing especially in those populations with lower vaccination coverage.1 Fifty percent of the US population has not been fully vaccinated. Within the first 2 weeks of August, there have been 1.5 million new COVID cases reported, and 7,648 deaths due to COVID-19.2, 3 Pediatric COVID-19 cases are also substantially increasing, during the week of August 5th there were 121,427 new reported cases, accounting for approximately 1 in 5 of the total reported cases that week.4 

As health professionals and trusted members of the community, it’s our duty to proactively engage families, understand their point of view, correct misinformation, and serve as subject matter experts on the COVID-19 vaccine. These one-on-one conversations with families are critical but certainly are not enough. With the overwhelming amount of misinformation on social media and websites about the COVID-19 vaccine, more needs to be done to combat vaccine hesitancy. It takes efforts from multiple fronts to help address health misinformation and vaccine hesitancy. Below are recommendations to further strengthen our approach. 

Image by Jack Vessels on Unsplash

Implement statewide strategies to partner with community organizations to provide appropriate resources to inform families about the benefits and known side effects of vaccinations. 

Utilize postal mail, text messages, and telephone calls to communicate with families about the vaccine 

Ensure these messages are linguistically and are culturally appropriate. 

Create opportunities for community members to share their stories and experiences with the vaccine. 

Partner with school systems to provide vaccine education materials to families. 

Create vaccine clinics at schools to allow teachers, staff, students, and families to get vaccinated prior to or after the school day. 

Continue to maintain walk-up vaccination sites throughout the year that remain open during the weekday and weekends. 

Work with local institutions such as churches, barbershops, gyms, and community centers to meet people where they are. 

Hold focus groups and listening sessions with communities to understand what approach would be most effective to reach families. 

Ensure systems are in place to record most effective practices to tackle vaccine hesitancy. 

Continuously monitor and evaluate vaccine confidence after the above practices have been implemented. 

Continue utilizing The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS), providing up to date, transparent data to the public. 

With the above recommendations in place, the hope is to build vaccine confidence to prevent further cases, hospitalizations, and deaths caused by COVID-19.


1. CDC COVID Data Tracker. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#vaccinations-cases-trends. Accessed August 16, 2021.

2. CDC COVID Data Tracker. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#trends_totalcases_totalcasesper100k. Accessed August 16, 2021.

3. CDC COVID Data Tracker. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#trends_totaldeaths_totalcasesper100k. Accessed August 16, 2021.

4. Children and covid-19: State-level data report. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://www.aap.org/en/pages/2019-novel-coronavirus-covid-19-infections/children-and-covid-19-state-level-data-report/. Published August 16, 2021. Accessed August 17, 2021.


Header photo from Adobe