Editorial content to follow:
At Ascension Wisconsin, it is heartbreaking for our providers and care teams to see children facing life-threatening medical conditions due to exposure to COVID-19, especially now, when this outcome could have been prevented.
As a community, we must do everything we can to prevent people – especially children – from contracting this virus. We must continue using a multi-layered approach to protect ourselves and each other as recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most effective ways to do that are for every eligible adult and child 12 years of age and older to get vaccinated and to wear masks when indoors or in crowded areas.
The facts are simple and irrefutable. Vaccinations are safe and effective. Almost all of the patients being treated for COVID-19 across northeast Wisconsin hospitals are unvaccinated. Vaccinated individuals who experience rare breakthrough cases rarely require hospitalization and few experience serious symptoms. Masking is also proven to help reduce the spread of viruses.
As a healthcare provider and as a Catholic ministry, advocating for critical public health measures is part of our Mission to serve our communities in northeast Wisconsin.
At this time, children under the age of 12 are not eligible to be vaccinated. It is our responsibility as adults to do everything we can to protect our vulnerable youth and prevent outbreaks of the coronavirus in our schools and communities. Ultimately, vaccinations and masking help to protect all of us. While many children who contract COVID-19 may not develop serious symptoms, we are seeing more children who require medical care or hospitalization. Children who contract the virus can easily spread it to family members, classmates and teachers, many of whom could face serious or deadly consequences. And, as the highly contagious Delta variant has shown us, we face the risk of continued mutation of the coronavirus as case counts surge.
Our dedicated providers and care teams face two difficult realities today: treating high-risk children with COVID-19 and advising parents on the difficult decision to send children back to in-person learning or face another year of virtual courses. Both of these situations can be avoided if more of us practice all mitigation measures including social distancing, masking, hand washing and, most importantly, getting vaccinated.
Our children deserve a safe return to in-person learning. And all of us deserve to live and work in safe and healthy environments. If we work together, we can achieve these goals.
Dr. Tom Nichols, Regional Chief Medical Officer, Fox Valley Region, Ascension Wisconsin and Pediatric Hospitalist Ascension