By Joanna A. McKinley, MD - Dothan Pediatric Clinic
We are back in school, cheering for our favorite teams on Friday and Saturdays. After a long year, we experienced a little bit of “normal” this past summer, and it was so welcome!
Unfortunately, delta variant COVID now threatens to slow us down as we head into fall and winter. This delta variant is highly transmissible and currently accounts for almost all COVID cases in the U.S. The good news is that we are not helpless in this journey to return to normal.
Some strategies to hasten our return to normal are straightforward. Washing hands and keeping hands away from the face protect us not only from COVID but other infections, as well. Staying home and seeing your doctor when you feel bad limits the spread of illnesses. More COVID-specific behaviors include wearing masks in larger gatherings, especially indoors. The most targeted action we can take is getting vaccinated. Billions of doses have been given worldwide, and the vaccines have been shown to be safe and effective. Data shows that almost all hospitalizations and deaths from COVID are occurring in unvaccinated individuals.
This COVID surge is affecting children in numbers not seen last year. Children are largely unvaccinated. Children and teens who get COVID often spread it to their friends, siblings, and other family members. Thankfully, most children recover by simply treating the symptoms, but some require hospitalization, and some may even die. Others develop long-term COVID symptoms that could impact their daily activities. Thorough pediatric trials are ongoing, and vaccine approval for children under 12 may come as early as this winter. Until then, children under 12 are only protected when adults and older siblings become vaccinated.
Becoming vaccinated is a personal choice. I encourage everyone to discuss any vaccine concerns or questions with a trusted healthcare provider.
With more people vaccinated, the number of COVID illnesses will trend downward, there will be fewer people quarantined because of exposures. Vaccinated people do not have to quarantine after an exposure as long as they remain asymptomatic. Fewer sick and quarantined people mean fewer days missed from school and work and fewer canceled events. This means more time to gather and more opportunities to do those things we missed last year. That means more “normal” back in our lives! We will not get there by doing nothing or simply choosing sides on some admittedly hot topic, but we WILL get there by listening to each other and working together.