Dr. Catherine Ohmstede
Dr. Catherine Ohmstede

Dr. Catherine Ohmstede heard from a friend the other night asking for her honest appraisal of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents ages 12-15.

The friend wanted to know:

“Why do you think this is good?

Why do kids need it?

The death rate is so ridiculously low and it’s an experimental drug!

I don’t feel the benefits outweigh the risks for me.

I’m truly very curious about your opinion.”

Ohmstede, a mom, pediatrician and leader at Novant Health, gave the following reply.*

Thank you so much for reaching out to learn more about the COVID-19 vaccine. I understand that everyone’s experiences over the past year have been different, and the misinformation that has arisen out of those different experiences can be overwhelming.

My faith in mRNA COVID vaccines comes from three sources of truth: fact, ethics and my personal values.

Get your COVID-19 vaccine now.

Act Now

The facts

  • Some 1.4 billion doses of COVID vaccine have been given worldwide; 120 million people have received mRNA COVID vaccines.
  • Throughout history, any long-term adverse effects of vaccines have presented within six to eight weeks of vaccination.
  • mRNA COVID vaccines have shown no long-term adverse effects over six months of widespread vaccination.
  • The scale of vaccine rollout was made possible by massive government funding worldwide and has given us tremendous amounts of data in an unprecedented short time frame. COVID mRNA vaccine is no longer experimental, but tried and true one of the safest, most effect vaccines we have ever seen.
  • mRNA production in the lab has been basic lab science for 30 years – I did this myself in college. The technology is not experimental.
  • The COVID mRNA vaccine is a modification of a treatment that has been used in oncology patients for 20 years. It has been proven safe and effective in this population as well. The capability to modify the vaccine rapidly and precisely gives it the potential to be tweaked to create booster doses very quickly to combat variants as they arise.
  • This article can be very helpful in understanding the safety of the vaccine. You’ll find dozens of articles here quoting my physician/providers colleagues at Novant Health around the safety of the vaccine.

    And this article addresses the myths that have been circulating in the past weeks.

    This recent podcast from Dr. Paul Offit is fantastic and gets into the science behind the vaccines:

    The ethics

    • Some 40,000 children in the U.S. have lost a parent to death caused by COVID-19.
    • Between 300 and 600 children have died of COVID in the U.S., and uncounted thousands have died worldwide. In Brazil COVID has caused deaths in at least 2,200 children under the age of 5.

    While our children may not be at high risk of death from COVID, our neighbors and peers have children too young to be vaccinated who are at high risk of severe illness and death. My husband (pediatric cardiologist Dr. David Ohmstede) has cared for some of these in the hospital, and it would be an injustice for us not to protect them from infection when they are too young to receive the vaccine yet.

    Also, there are adults in our community who are at high risk and still unvaccinated. The unvaccinated husband of one of my nurses died two weeks ago of COVID infection, adding to our list of family friends and colleagues killed by the virus.

    My personal values

    I want my children to have sleepovers, go to sleepaway camp, visit friends’ houses, and go to school without masks and know that they are not putting others at risks. I want to go to work without having to counsel mothers coping with parenting while under the fog of long-haul COVID, and families grieving the loss of a loved one due to COVID.

    I want my colleagues in the emergency department and ICU to feel supported that our community cares about their health and safety and well-being, and supports their heroic efforts to show up for nine months last year, smothered by N-95 masks and exhausted from the constant barrage of illness due to a virus that we could not control. I want to go back to counseling patients about exercise and nutrition and sleep, not about depression and anxiety related to social isolation, family upheaval, fear of illness and virtual school.

    I hope that helps you understand where I am coming from. I understand we all look at the world through a different lens. Hopefully this gives you some clarity about mine.

    I wish your family all the best health and happiness!

    *Minor edits were made for this posting.