An Open Letter to Parents on the COVID-19 Vaccine

By: Jason Williams, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon & Randy Roth, MD, Chief Medical Officer – Singing River Health System

I would respectfully ask that you indulge me for a moment as I address an incredibly sensitive topic. I hope to allay certain fears and perhaps start a trend of using knowledge as power, as we continue to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a physician, I have seen firsthand the effects of COVID-19 on our patients, their families, and the community. We are seeing exponentially increasing numbers of hospitalized patients in recent weeks around the country, especially here in Mississippi. Of those hospitalized, 93-97% did NOT get vaccinated. Of those who die from COVID, 99% did not get vaccinated. 

Currently, the most likely age group to be admitted to the hospital are people under 40 years of age. Children’s hospital in Jackson has 7 patients adolescent age or younger in the ICU today. Not a single one of these patients was vaccinated.

Vaccines are exceedingly safe, and we have known this for decades. The technology used to create these COVID-19 vaccines is similar to those used before, and this pandemic is not the first to yield the rapid development of a vaccine. Furthermore, vaccines in this pandemic have proven to be INFINITELY more effective than masks, social distancing, or quarantining – data the scientific community clearly reports and the politicians cannot refute. There is absolutely no reason to think future medical problems such as infertility will be increased due to the vaccine. It has never happened before. Regarding immediate safety concerns, vaccination has proven to be safer than driving a car.

This is all data that has been collected and reported. It’s not Opinion. It’s not politicized. It’s simply factual data. Furthermore, the vaccine is 88% effective against newer strains of the virus (eg. Delta variant), so it continues to protect us even as the virus changes. There are risks to everything, including vaccination, but none of us think twice about driving our children to practice. Vaccinating our community should be no different.

Dr. Jason Williams, MD, Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Singing River Health System

Science repeatedly tells us that vaccines are safe and effective, and choosing not to get vaccinated (which is everyone’s right) puts unvaccinated people at significantly increased risk. For our children, that means missed school days, missed practices, and missed games. The psychological toll this has taken on our youth the past year is well-documented. Our children’s Educational Quality has been significantly negatively affected by quarantine. Vaccinating our population will eliminate these problems, all while improving the health and overall well-being of our community.

One other important factor to consider for our student-athletes is that when key players miss games due to COVID, the entire team suffers, and the work all of these players and coaches have struggled so hard to do all summer can be squandered. 

I would encourage each of you to strongly consider the physical, emotional, educational, athletic, and social benefits of vaccination as the new school year approaches. It would be a shame for anyone In our community to suffer needlessly from this virus any further. It would also be a shame to waste all of the hard work our students and players have put into achieving their dreams because of unsubstantiated fears about the consequences of vaccines that do not exist.

I would be happy to answer any questions people may have about the risks and benefits of vaccination, and if I do not know the answer I will diligently research the issue until I can find it for you.

Dr. Randy Roth, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Singing River Health System

We are so proud of our schools, students, and families for their resilience and strength throughout this pandemic and are joyful at the prospect of a more normal school year this fall, but we must all prepare now to make this hope a reality. Vaccines are available for ages 12 years and older at our Singing River Medical Clinics, pediatric clinics, local pharmacies, and the Mississippi State Department of Health.