Local experts: ‘Seeing the fear in kids’ faces when they’re having a hard time breathing’ from COVID tough to watch

Local pediatricians recommend COIVD-19 shot, including for their kids and grandkids.

COVID-19 poses more of a risk to adults than children, but it can still cause serious harm and can sometimes be deadly for children, Dayton-area health experts warn.

“COVID does not affect children as severely as adults. That does not mean it doesn’t affect children severely,” said Dr. Adam Mezoff, chief medical officer at Dayton Children’s Hospital. “They can be very, very sick. Why not prevent a problem that could make your child or grandchild very, very sick?”

While discussing the risks and benefits of the recently approved COVID-19 vaccine for young children during a Dayton Daily News Community Conversation on Facebook Live on Wednesday evening, area health care providers shared why they recommend this vaccine for young members of their own families.

Community Conversations are moderated discussions led by the Dayton Daily News, bringing together trusted, local experts to dig into reader questions and allowing them to hear directly from those leaders. A recording of the Community Conversation on child COVID-19 vaccinations can be viewed on DaytonDailyNews.com or our Facebook page.

Dr. Katherine Lambes, a pediatrician with the Community Health Centers of Greater Dayton and mother of a vaccinated 8-year-old, said she got her children vaccinated for the same reason she got the shot.

“This is a public good,” she said. “It protects them. It protects me. It protects other family and it protects the community, and the science is sound … It’s going to help overall find a resolution or at least a control of the pandemic.”

In the approximately two weeks children ages 5 to 11 have been able to get vaccinated, nearly 8.6% of the age group in Ohio have gotten their first shot as of Thursday afternoon.

Mezoff says he thinks about his four young grandchildren when he’s researching the vaccine.

“When I’ve had these discussions with my children, the parents of my grandchildren, I usually describe sort of three main categories of why I think this is important and something that we ought to do for our children,” he said. “The first is the benefits to the child themselves.”

Nationwide, over 600 children, including more than 173 kids ages 5 to 11, have died from COVID-19. The disease is now the eighth-leading cause of death in the 5 to 11 age group. And over 8,300 kids in the age group have been hospitalized. Nearly a third of those hospitalizations were of kids with no prior health issues.

Hillary O’Neil, a respiratory therapist at Dayton Children’s, shared what it’s like for kids who get very ill with COVID-19 and require hospitalization.

“Anybody who’s ever experienced an illness that causes them to have a difficult time breathing knows how scary that is,” she said. “And seeing the fear in kids’ faces when they’re having a hard time breathing, they’re needing masks put on their face, and we’re going to intubate them and things like that, it’s very impactful and so it’s hard to watch children go through things like that.”

Mezoff said he also recommends the vaccine for children to protect their family and the community.

“You may have family members who are like me and an older age group or perhaps they have a chronic disease or are immune suppressed, and being able to be together as a family safely can be accomplished by these children being vaccinated,” he said. “It’s a part of keeping a family together in a safe manner. And then finally, there’s clearly a community benefit. Your children are around a lot of people, including their teachers, and keeping this infection from spreading to those people is is a community service in many ways.”

The panelists also got personal to combat some of the most prominent misinformation surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine, including the myth that the COVID vaccine can cause infertility.

“It’s something that personally affected me. I was very concerned when I heard that information. I’m still looking to build a family myself,” O’Neil said. “If you look at all of the peer reviewed published information, everything is truly showing that the vaccine is not causing fertility issues.”

Dr. Alonzo Patterson III, a pediatrician with PriMed Physicians said he would recommend this vaccine for his own daughters.

“Anyone who knows me knows that two of the most important people in my life are my daughters, who are both in their 20s, and there’s no part of me that would recommend that they be vaccinated with something that I think would take away the joy of life that bearing children and raising children gives,” he said. “I took a look into it when those reports came out, and saw that the claims were unfounded, based on research that was really not even applicable to the vaccine.”

Patterson and other panelists pointed to the fact that unvaccinated mothers who catch COVID-19 are having more complications during birth.

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