The days in the pediatric intensive care unit crept by. The monitors beeped, the nurses changed shifts, the attendings did their rounds, and the babies wailed. My son was tied down, with his arms in restraints while he was intubated like many people seriously ill with Covid-19. He was on heavy doses of fentanyl and barbiturates. He had tubes and central lines snaking around every inch of his tiny body. The nights came and went. We were no closer to a diagnosis but in my gut, I believed it was MSI-C.
Then somehow, four weeks to the day after we walked into the hospital, we walked out together. No diagnosis. No explanation for why he had to be intubated two different times, why he was placed on a liver transplant list, why his heart failed, and why he came close to needing dialysis. Somehow the universe, and the prayers, and the expert medical care, and his warrior spirit, brought him through. Then six months after this nightmare, his team of doctors admitted that in hindsight, the only plausible explanation for his near-death experience was MSI-C, likely caused by an asymptomatic or mild case of Covid-19.
Children under 12, including my son, cannot protect themselves from the coronavirus. They cannot get the Covid-19 vaccines, which are still undergoing clinical trials for young children. They cannot appropriately weigh the risks against the benefits. But as adults, we have the individual and collective responsibility to do whatever we can to mitigate their risks. Until young children can be vaccinated, the best way to protect them — and ourselves — is to vaccinate as many eligible people as possible and maintain public health measures like masking, hand washing and social distancing. We have already asked young school children to take one for the team by staying home and learning remotely for over a year. Isn’t it time to uphold our end of the collective deal by literally rolling up our sleeves to get shots in arms?
If anything, remaining unvaccinated by choice — and not because of lack of access or contraindicated health conditions — sounds more to me like shirking an individual responsibility than exercising an individual right.