From being selfless clinicians to fight COVID-19, being the forerunners for infection control working in conjunction with hospital administration, to being field experts answering media questions, one of the most pertinent roles that we as pediatric infectious diseases specialists are playing is in guiding patients, parents and promoting immunization in every way possible during these testing times!
Recently, among the number of saddening stories discussed with my internal medicine infectious diseases expert counterparts (“Adult ID”) seeing patients getting extremely sick because of COVID-19 and using every possible treatment from Remdesivir to plasma, patients that endured the suffering of COVD-19 (and endured alone), and the families that have faced this grave public health challenge, I recall seeing a 3 y/o being evaluated for recurrent fevers. Iowa as a rising state in terms of COVID-19 numbers, with my city (Sioux City- NW IA) becoming the state’s hotspot with the highest number of increase in cases last week, it is clear that the little protection of being in country’s interior seems to be getting over- and I could see that fear and anxiety in the eyes of parents of my patient- “though the disease is not that prevalent in children, what about our immunocompromised child?” the extremely anxious parents asked me. They said, “We are also stressed as the virus has very much arrived here- it is here in the community- it is scary looking at what happened in NY.”
Truly, we are in the midst of a real world crisis! However, in the face of COVID-19, we as pediatric infectious disease specialists have a very unique role to play- to counsel parents not only as experts for the disease process per se, but also as a comforting source of scientific information, emotional support as well as reassuring that prevention steps do help us in infection mitigation and have been protecting us thus far- my explanation was very reassuring to the parents!
With the cases slowly creeping up and the peak of infections still a few weeks away, we are on organizational forefront in the COVID-19 Incident command, we are tackling institutional issues in the face of the surge in COVID-19 cases, be it availability of PPE or ways to use and conserve PPE. Additionally, another grave challenge which is a crisis in itself in the midst of this unprecedented global pandemic of COVID 19 is the dangerous threat of falling rates of immunization. And being an American Academy of Pediatrics National spokesperson and AAP IA Chapter Immunization Representative, I have been emphasizing immunization in the media and cautioning that the falling immunization rates can give rise to Vaccine Preventable diseases- we cannot invite them back- we cannot afford to have another crisis of VPDs within the existing mammoth crisis of COVID-19. For instance, I have been interviewed by media/ parent advocacy websites explaining COVID 19 for general public and emphasizing the absolute need for childhood immunization nationally and locally!
The COVID-19 global pandemic has indeed, taught us big lessons- lessons of compassion and patience with self realization and worth of life as a whole- it has given us a chance to be grateful for this life and hopefully realizing that public health and immunization are important ways to protect the same!