Here's how pediatricians could play a crucial role in getting parents vaccinated

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Posted at 5:40 PM, May 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-04 18:16:12-04

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could authorize Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 12-15 as early as next week, according to Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.

Speaking Tuesday, health workers in Cincinnati said they hope safely expanding vaccine eligibility to children might also draw in adults who were hesitant about the shot and give them an opportunity to reconsider.

The logic is simple, said Dr. Mary Carol Burkhardt: Pediatricians like her develop closer bonds with their patients and patients’ families than many other medical practitioners. A trusted pediatrician’s assurance that the vaccine is safe might mean more to a parent than the same assurance from that parent’s own primary care doctor.

“I think if you ask most pediatricians, we're only going to recommend what we're going to do for our own children, and think that potentially gives us the ability to build more trust with our families,” Burkhardt said. “And hopefully they recognize that we are doing what we think is in the best interest of their child."

Her work also focuses more on questions and answers, she said; she spends more time chatting with patients’ families than another doctor might. And she’s had a lot of practice discussing vaccines with parents who are curious or hesitant.

“We are very used to talking about vaccines and very comfortable talking about vaccines, especially with families who have questions or just want to know all the right information,” she said.

Keara Heard, a mother of three, has only one child still below the FDA’s current 16-and-up age range for vaccine eligibility. Her other two are vaccinated, and so is she.

“As a family, we collectively researched to figure out if this would be a good decision for the whole family,” she said Tuesday.

It was, the Heards decided. Other members of their extended family had already caught COVID-19, and some had died. With that in mind, Keara and her children wanted the shot.

She’s hopeful that her youngest child will be able to get it soon.

“I just want to see us all healthy and getting back to a normal way of life,” she said. “(We want to) be part of the solution instead of the problem.”