I am a retired pediatrician who practiced for more than 40 years in Loudon County.
In addition to running a private practice, I was the official — or maybe unofficial — medical director of Loudon County Schools for a majority of that time. I write this with a spirit of community love and respect.
I have always tried my very best to provide sound, practical, evidence-based, medical advice to patients, their parents, school nurses, principals and teachers. Throughout my career, I, like most pediatricians, relied heavily on the knowledge, expertise and guidance of organizations like the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Following the counsel of these academic medical specialists has served me and the children of Loudon County well all these years. These institutions strongly recommend masks for indoor school activities and COVID-19 vaccines for school-age kids 5-18 years of age who have no medical contraindications.
I want to promote and encourage parents to get their school-age kids vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible. These vaccines are extremely safe, effective, have been approved by all appropriate entities and are widely available.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of misinformation regarding these vaccines. All of the following data pertain to 5- to 18-year-olds and are facts.
Since the start of this school year, COVID-19 cases have increased dramatically compared to last year. There have been over 50,000 cases in Tennessee in the last three months. Since the start of the pandemic, there have been 209,000 cases in Tennessee and 1,400 cases in Loudon County. There have been 21 school-age deaths in Tennessee.
In the last 14 days, there have been 2,864 cases in Tennessee and 21 in Loudon County. School-age kids currently make up 24% of all Tennessee cases, which was as high as 40% in September. This week there were on average 5-10 kids in Tennessee pediatric hospitals, 3-4 in ICU and half of those on a ventilator. In September there were as many as 84 kids in Tennessee hospitals, half in ICU and half of those on a ventilator. Nationwide over 6 million kids have tested positive and 8,300 have been hospitalized with one-third in the ICU and half on a ventilator.
About 51% of school-age kids nationwide have been vaccinated. In Tennessee, 20% of school-age kids are vaccinated. In Loudon County, just 6% of school-age kids are vaccinated.
There is a 12% test positivity rate in Loudon County, which indicates a significant degree of community spread.
Vaccines, while not perfect, have been found to be safe and effective in this age group. The benefits far outweigh the risks.
Based on this information, it appears very clear that this disease affects all age groups and that a comprehensive approach to combating it should include school-age children. In general, it is true that this illness is less severe in this age group, but it is a significant disease and can have devastating consequences. The data speaks for itself. It also seems clear that vaccines, combined with other mitigating measures, will give us the best chance of controlling this virus.
I know parents have the health and well-being of their children at the forefront of all they do. Why not give a vaccine that can prevent a potentially serious illness for them and those around them?
Vaccination is the single-most important measure we have at our disposal to combat this pandemic.
Please get the COVID-19 vaccine for your school-age child now, and promote and encourage friends, neighbors and family to do the same.