Hear this pediatrician parent’s plea

By Honora Quinn Burnett

“I wish I’d been vaccinated,” the mother sighed into the phone. I heard her two COVID-19 positive children vying for her attention in the background. They would be quarantined together in a motel room for the next 10 days. The kids wouldn’t be able to go to school, socialize with their friends or race around the playground. Worse, their grandmother was also affected by this chain of transmission and at the time was hospitalized and seriously ill with COVID-19. I let out my own sigh and gripped the phone more tightly; with masking and vaccination all this could have been prevented.

My patients, and so many other children in Boulder, have sacrificed a lot during this pandemic. Children under the age of 12 are not yet eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, but may benefit most from a personal learning experience. Virtual learning has been shown to involve systemic barriers that disproportionately affect children of color. Isolation effects from the pandemic have dramatically increased mental health needs, with Children’s Hospital Colorado declaring a “state of emergency” for youth mental health.

Honora Quinn Burnett

There is no clearer sign: We must prioritize the safe return to school in August for Boulder’s children. Kudos to the Boulder County Board of Health, which has appropriately mandated masks for all students in school settings and childcare, and Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) School Board has reflected this and mandated universal masks in children’s schools. older than 2 years old, teachers and staff. However, this is only the first step. We must also mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for children over the age of 12, teachers and staff.

I am a proud recipient of a K-12 BVSD degree, an incoming BVSD Kindergarten parent, a member of the Colorado Branch of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a local pediatrician. My life’s work revolves around keeping Colorado’s children healthy and learning. I am convinced of the importance of personal learning and the importance of vaccine requirements for students, teachers and staff.

Critical to returning to personal learning is widespread vaccination; therefore, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) have both recommended vaccinations for anyone over the age of 12. These vaccines are safe and effective. Vaccinations protect recipients and reduce their risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19. All vaccines are evaluated through rigorous processes by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The COVID-19 vaccines also provide herd immunity to protect infants and children who are not yet eligible for the vaccine.

Among the children I care for are patients with disabilities and chronic illnesses. These children have suffered the most from the COVID-19 isolation, as they do not have easy access to the virtual learning resources provided to them through school and their communities. Their loss of personal learning was great, as were the risks of returning to the classroom without proper safety measures.

This is a clear public health problem, not a political problem. BVSD School Board and Boulder County Board of Health, listen to this pediatrician parent’s plea: Take this seriously. You have already taken the first step to require masks in schools, now take the second step to require COVID-19 vaccinations for children over 12 years old who attend and work at school. This is our best chance to keep kids healthy and learning while they’re in class.

Boulderites: I beg you, get your family vaccinated, put on masks and work together to keep kids in school where they belong.

Honora Quinn Burnett lives in Boulder and is a pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Colorado School of Medicine

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