Louisiana pediatricians pen open letter urging families to vaccinate children against COVID

Coronavirus

Doses of the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine are seen being prepared on Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Decatur, Ga. Hundreds of children, ages 12 to 15, received the Pfizer vaccine at the DeKalb Pediatric Center, just days after it was approved for use within their age group. (AP Photo/Ron Harris)

BATON ROUGE, La. (KLFY) — A group of leading pediatricians and Louisiana Department of Health State Health Officer Dr. Joseph Kanter have released a letter urging families to vaccinate their children against COVID-19.

The FDA authorized the emergency use of the Pfizer vaccine for this age group last week, and the CDC recommended the use of the vaccine for this age group on May 12. The letter includes signatories representing the Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics; LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine; Tulane University School of Medicine; Ochsner Health; Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health and LSU Health Shreveport.

The letter is below in its entirety:

As pediatricians, we share your goal of keeping your child healthy and safe.  The health and well-being of all children in Louisiana is our utmost responsibility and priority.  We are proud of the many families who have volunteered to participate in the research studies that have brought us safe and effective vaccines to combat COVID-19. They volunteered so we all might have the opportunity to protect our children and, by extension, everyone else in our families. For adolescents 12 years of age and older and their families, that opportunity is now here.

The FDA’s recent authorization of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in 12-15-year-olds and the CDC’s strong recommendation adds an essential tool to the proven strategies that have kept our children safe during the past school year. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be safe and provides a strong immune response against the virus, particularly in adolescents. Importantly, it has also been shown to substantially reduce the chance one might unknowingly pass the virus onto someone else. Thankfully, the most significant challenges of the 2020-21 school year are behind us now, and the availability of COVID-19 vaccines brings hope that the “normal” we all seek for our children and our families will come soon.

While most children have been spared serious complications, many have become ill with COVID-19, and some have been hospitalized and died. COVID-19 has spread through families, causing fear, disruption, and sacrifice. Sadly, COVID-19 has already claimed the lives of over 10,000 Louisianans, including 7 children.  Vaccination of adults and children is necessary to prevent the continued spread of this virus in our communities and the emergence of the variants that threaten to prolong this pandemic.

By their social nature, teens have proven to be very effective spreaders of COVID-19. The availability of COVID vaccines in 12-15-year-olds can make the coming school year safer and more normal, but only if families and adolescents choose to get vaccinated.

As the summer begins, we strongly encourage parents of children ages 12 and up to find out where COVID-19 vaccines are available in your area and to schedule your child for their vaccination as soon as possible. This is especially important for those who will be attending summer camps, traveling, spending time with friends, working summer jobs and going back to school in August. Vaccination against COVID-19 is important for the health of all our children.

This past year has brought challenges and disruptions to all of our lives, especially for our children.  It has been our greatest honor to navigate these unprecedented times with you and your family to ensure the well-being of all children.  Just as we navigated the early terrifying days of this pandemic together, we are here to help your children return to a sense of normalcy.  For that reason, we urge that every child 12 years of age and older receive the COVID-19 vaccine and get caught up on other vaccinations that may be overdue.  If you have questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccines, please schedule a visit with or call your pediatrician to discuss your concerns.

We know, and many Louisianans will agree, the risk to your child and to your family of remaining unvaccinated is too great.

The letter is signed by the following physicians:

The Louisiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics

  • Rachel Chatters, MD, President | Lake Charles
  • Joseph A. Bocchini Jr., MD, Vice President | Shreveport
  • Ann Kay Logarbo, MD, At-Large Member | Covington
  • Bridgett Foreman, MD, Early Career Physician | Alexandria
  • Elizabeth Seiter, MD, At-Large member | Baton Rouge
  • Kim Mukerjee, MD, Secretary/Treasurer | New Orleans
  • John A. Vanchiere, MD, PhD, Immediate Past President | Shreveport

The Louisiana Department of Health

  • Joseph Kanter, MD, MPH, State Health Officer

LSU Health New Orleans School of Medicine

  • Raymond G. Watts, MD, FAAP, Professor and Head, Department of Pediatrics

Tulane University School of Medicine

  • Samir El-Dahr, MD, Chairman, Department of Pediatrics

Ochsner Health

  • William Lennarz, MD, Pediatrics System Chair

Our Lady of the Lake Children’s Health

  • Shaun Kemmerly, MD, Chief Medical Officer

LSU Health Shreveport

  • Maroun Mhanna, MD, MPH, Chairman, Department of Pediatrics

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