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The Columbia Press

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Here's to Your Health

Talking with teens about getting vaccinated

Dr. Regina Mysliwiec
By Dr. Regina Mysliwiec/Columbia Memorial Hospital, Thursday, July 15, 2021

I was recently asked why teens should get the COVID-19 vaccine.

For me it is simple: People are not dispensable. We cannot afford to lose kids to a disease that affects children unpredictably and is mutating to become stronger and potentially more fatal. There is a safe and effective way to prevent severe disease from the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

There’s a lot of misinformation out there and it can be tricky talking to teens and parents who are apprehensive about getting vaccinated. However, I think it’s a great time for young adults to exercise their power of choice and make a real difference in the world.

Adolescence is the last step before adulthood. The adult brain is starting to form, and it grows by accumulating experiences, finding and testing boundaries, stepping beyond the limits of pre-existing rules and expectations.

Until this point, we have only said what we have heard our families and friends say. In high school, we start to explore new ideas, to get a taste for who we are as individuals and who we might want to be as grown-ups. We begin to understand consent and risk — the cornerstones of choice.

I chose to get the vaccine. I read the studies, I checked the numbers, and I looked at how many people like me had side effects. The numbers showed that no one in the studies who had received the Moderna or Pfizer died — none.

There was no question in my mind what the right action was when I compared that to the number of people like me who died after getting COVID-19; or worse yet, when I considered the risk of passing COVID-19 to a grandparent, or to a child who might develop a severe inflammatory reaction that damages their heart, or to friend with an undiagnosed autoimmune disease or immune suppression.

We can’t predict who will be harmed by the choice not to get vaccinated.

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine puts more control in our hands. I chose to receive a medication that is proven to be safe and effective at preventing severe disease from a contagious virus, rather than be blindsided by unpredictably devastating illness that causes all the side effects of the vaccine, but more and worse. By getting vaccinated, I was also able to set aside time to recover, knowing that the vaccine could make me feel sick for a couple days while my immune system learned to fight off the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

It is my job to save lives. I did that first as an EMT, when it was my job to put myself in harm's way to protect others, then as an emergency room doctor for the past 12 years. I have cared for more than 11,000 patients in the CMH Emergency Department. From what I’ve seen, everyone has someone they’re not ready to give up to a disease.

For me, it’s my parents who are in their late 70s, my three aunts, my two brothers, a niece who just turned 5 years old, my wife of 11 years and our 9-month-old daughter. I chose to be vaccinated to protect the people I love.

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