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06:02 AM

Physician Parents Step Up to Vaccinate Their Children

With Pfizer’s COVID-19 Vaccine FDA-Approved for Those 5 and Older, Cedars-Sinai Physicians Eagerly Bring Their Own Children to Get Their Shots

Cedars-Sinai physicians who have been on the front lines in the battle against COVID-19 in the community are also doing their part at home by getting their children vaccinated against the virus.

Cedars-Sinai’s COVID-19 vaccine drive-thru opened to children 5 and older on Nov. 4, following Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention clearance of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for that age group. Among those receiving their first dose that day was Lila Karp-Ziring, age 9.

“We’ve been waiting ever since the vaccine came out to get her protected,” said her father, David Ziring, MD, associate director of the Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease Program and associate professor of Pediatrics at Cedars-Sinai. “It was so easy, and I feel so much better having her vaccinated.”

Protecting Children

Jonathan Grein, MD, director of Hospital Epidemiology at Cedars-Sinai, scheduled vaccination appointments for his 9-year-old son, Keoni, and 6-year-old daughter, Kairi, as soon as that was an option. “It’s just a matter of time before my children are exposed to someone with COVID-19,” he said, “and when that happens, I want to know I did everything I could to protect them.”

Physician parents voiced their concerns about protecting their children from severe disease, complications, and potential long-term effects.

“We are seeing more and more data that shows that complications are much lower for children who have been vaccinated compared to those who contract the virus,” said Sam Torbati, MD, medical director of the Ruth and Harry Roman Emergency Department at Cedars-Sinai and associate professor of Emergency Medicine. His sons, Ashton, 16, Gavin, 14, and Dean, 12, are fully vaccinated.

Infectious disease specialist Soniya Gandhi, MD, vice president of Medical Affairs and associate chief medical officer at Cedars-Sinai, is still awaiting the day her 4-year-old son can receive the vaccine, and she remains conscious of the risk he faces.

“When we look back on the six-week period from early July to mid-August, childhood hospitalizations due to COVID-19 increased by fivefold because of the delta surge,” she said. “This is not a mild cold that we're talking about. There are a lot of potentially serious and damaging consequences.”

Vaccination Perks

The children, meanwhile, focused on some perks of being vaccinated.

“It’s one step closer to not wearing a mask,” said Keoni Grein. “Also, my mom is going to London, and I want to go with her, but I can’t go until I’m fully vaccinated.”

When 9-year-old Alina Danovitch recently received her first dose of the vaccine, it was cause for celebration at her house for several reasons. “When we asked her what she was most excited about after getting her first shot, she said it was the prospect of being able to hug people,” said her father, Itai Danovitch, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at Cedars-Sinai.

Alina’s 15-year-old sister, Maya, and 13-year-old brother, Deivis, are fully vaccinated, so the whole family will be protected when Alina receives her second dose.

“For me, being vaccinated took away this feeling of COVID as an imminent threat,” said Deivis. “I know that it’s still possible to catch a less-severe case, but I found that it made me a lot more comfortable going out in the world.”

Deivis and Maya are looking forward to the return of social interaction as well. “Being able to connect more with friends and family, grandparents and other elders around us, and getting back to experiences like going to the movies, are things I’ve looked forward to,” Maya said.

Danovitch pointed out that most kids are well-prepared for their COVID-19 shots because of the many other vaccines they receive. “We’re lucky that many serious illnesses, such as polio, tetanus, measles and mumps, have become rare because of vaccines,” he said. “COVID-19 is very much here, and the benefits of vaccination could not be more palpable.”

His children didn’t experience many side effects. Maya had a slight fever the next day but was well enough to play in a basketball game the day after. Deivis said he just felt a little tired the day after his shots.

Other than a sore arm, Lila Karp-Ziring hasn’t had other side effects and was well enough for a full day of virtual school the next day.

“If you’re worried about rare vaccine side effects, then choosing to not vaccinate your children feels safe, but in reality, it’s not,” said Grein. “Choosing not to vaccinate is choosing to risk your child’s health.”

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: COVID-19 Vaccine Update for Patients