Pediatricians ask everyone to consider the health and well-being of children | Opinion

Dear editor,

As elected officials of the South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (SCAAP), we write to voice our concerns about children as the pandemic continues.

Robert A. Saul, MD


We represent more than 750 paediatricians statewide and are united with our AAP colleagues (more than 67,000) nationally to speak out on behalf of the health, safety and wellbeing of the children and families under our umbrella of care and advocacy. We take our oath of service seriously and will always “educate, defend and agitate” children.

The first concern is that there seems to be a sense of complacency that children are safe from the ill effects of the COVID-19 virus. Let’s be clear – they tend to have less adverse effects than adults, but recent data shows that children have a growing share of new COVID-19 cases in the US, accounting for nearly 21%.

Since the start of the pandemic, more than 3.63 million children have been tested positive, accounting for about 13.6% of all cases.

Children can still have serious consequences and even death, and we are all concerned about the long-term unforeseen consequences for childhood infections and long-term health. They now deserve our protection.

Since children are not currently eligible for the vaccine, they will continue to spread the virus (and its more contagious variants) unless the adult population establishes herd immunity with overwhelming immunization.

In order to get all children safe back to school, back to athletics, back to summer camps, and back into all of their vital social activities they need, it’s now up to the adults to get vaccinated and stop the spread. We shouldn’t be doing less. The vaccine is safe.

The second concern is reluctance to receive vaccinations. This is a serious concern for us and our colleagues. The vaccine was being developed at seemingly lightning speed, but in fact its development was based on decades of science. So its high speed in the market and in the arms in no way reflects a disregard for security.

Its safety is really undeniable and appropriate precautions are being taken, even given some recent concerns. As noted above, if we are to care for the medical and social needs of our children, we must replace hesitation about vaccines with the urgency of the vaccine.

The third concern is the movement underway to discourage the wearing of masks while we are still in the midst of the pandemic, have not yet reached adequate immunization levels, and despite clear evidence that masks reduce the spread of the virus.

We are concerned that this movement is increasingly endangering the health and wellbeing of children. We still have to stop the respiratory spread until the vaccine’s hesitation is replaced by the urgency of the vaccine and we’ve protected enough of the population.

As health care professionals who wear masks all day at work and then again when we are in public, we can attest to the ease of wearing masks and the sense of pride that comes with protecting others.

We believe that the health and safety of our children far outweighs the alleged insult to the civil liberties of others. Wearing a mask will not be necessary in the not-too-distant future as we all wear the masks until public health officials give us the green light.

Our children are our most valuable resource and our most vulnerable citizens in the future. We must do everything we can to protect their health now, so that they have the best chance for a healthy future. It is the responsibility of all of us.

Robert Saul, MD – Chairman, SCAAP

Elizabeth Mack, MD – Vice President, SCAAP

Martha Edwards, MD – Secretary-Treasurer, SCAAP

Kerry Sease, MD – Immediate Former President, SCAAP

Robert A. Saul, MD is a graduate of Colorado College and the University of Colorado School of Medicine. He completed a residency in pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center and a fellowship in genetics at Greenwood Genetic Center. He is Professor of Pediatrics (Emeritius) at Prisma Health Children’s Hospital-Upstate and the University of South Carolina School of Medicine – Greenville. He is the president of the South Carolina Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

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