Dr. Lanre Falusi Alayo Falusi after she got her first COVID-19 vaccine
Dr. Lanre Falusi, 41, is a mom of three girls (ages 6, 3 and 1), a pediatrician at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C. She also is the co-host, with another physician-mom, of the podcast Health and Home with the Hippocratic Hosts, to share evidence-based, accurate information on health and parenting. In early November, days after the FDA authorized the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11, her oldest daughter Alayo, received the first of her two shots. She shares why it was so important for her daughter to be vaccinated as soon as possible, as told to PEOPLE.
For months my 6-year-old daughter had been asking when she could get vaccinated. She was seeing a couple of her friends had gotten COVID, and she talked about not wanting to get sick herself, so she wanted to get the vaccine to get protected.
And she saw that when my husband and I got vaccinated, we were more comfortable doing more things again. Of course we still kept our masks on, still had the social distancing every time that we went out, but we were less concerned about going to the grocery store. She was eager to be able to get back into her swimming lessons and indoor activities. She was ready. She would ask me at least once a week when the vaccine would be ready.
Within a week of the vaccine being officially approved by the FDA and the CDC and ready for the market, my daughter came to my clinic in early November and a nurse gave her the vaccine while I held her hand. I didn’t give it to her; I don’t know that she would want me coming towards her with a needle! She was so excited and wanted me to take pictures. It was a whole celebration both times — for the first dose and the second dose.
Dr. Lanre Falusi Dr. Lanre Falusi and Alayo
When we came back home after the first dose, she was telling everybody that she had gotten vaccinated. We would call my parents or talk to a friend and she was like, ‘Guess what? I got the COVID vaccine.’ She was super excited about it. She had a little bit of pain on her arm but that was gone the next day both times, and she was outside running around with her friends.
I don’t know that my 3-year-old fully understands that there’s a vaccine out there for this pandemic, but Alayo definitely did try to show her the bandaid and describe it to her, and to everyone who would listen.
Now that my oldest is that vaccinated, I let my patients know that we didn’t hesitate to get her vaccinated and that none of us had any severe side effects, and have been COVID-free since then.
Video: Couple adopts 5 siblings in foster care
COVID vaccines — and I’m speaking as mom and as a pediatrician — are the best way that we have to get out of this pandemic. From what I see, it’s the best way to protect our kids, to protect ourselves. When I have patients who have concerns about the vaccine, I tell families, “I get that it’s hard to sift through the information because there is so much coming from different sources and some may sound conflicting.”
A blind search online for COVID vaccine will come up with all sorts of information, misinformation, disinformation. A patient may say “There was an Instagram post” or “someone’s TikTok video.” I let them know that that all of the credible sources that I’ve read — from physicians, scientists, people who have done the research on this — we’re seeing is that it’s safe and it’s effective. The pattern that we’re seeing is that people have not had significant side effects but rather remain protected.
A big part of what I do is to provide families with credible sources, from children’s hospitals, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and from other physicians and non-physicians who understand the science and are spreading the accurate positive messages around vaccines.
Dr. Lanre Falusi Alayo Falusi
It’s gotten easier over time, as more people have gotten vaccinated and folks are seeing ‘Okay, people around me are getting vaccinated,’ and then are not seeing severe side effects, so that has helped. The goal of us getting you and your child vaccinated is to keep you out of the hospital, to keep from getting really sick. So I think explaining those things is helpful to families.
Even as we saw with the Omicron wave where people were catching COVID, including some people who had already been vaccinated, I try to make clear the point of what the vaccine has always done and what it has continued to do: to keep you out of the hospital. I tell them that even folks who have caught COVID after getting vaccinated, the vast majority have had very mild symptoms. Very, very few end up hospitalized. But if you go to the COVID ward of any hospital in this country right now, the majority of what you’re going to see are people who have not been vaccinated.
My middle daughter, the 3-year-old, has special needs due to a genetic condition, Down syndrome. This also has made me very eager to get her vaccinated, since she is at higher risk of getting sick if she catches COVID. (Children under five remain the only age group not yet approved for the COVID-19 vaccine.)
I’m right there with those parents of young children who have been frustrated, hopeful, all of those things. I’ve heard different things, that April will be the earliest it will be approved, but more likely May. It’s a very emotional time, I think, particularly as parents see others kind of move on with their lives while parents of young children are still trying to be very careful and still kind of holding back on a lot of activities for the young ones.
I feel it, I live it, but there is still reason for hope. The data looks like it’s moving in the right direction. We all wish it was sooner, I certainly wish it had been sooner, but if it takes a little longer, that time gives folks more time to feel comfortable and confident with the data.
When it gets approved, I know I’ll be ready and I hope that a lot of other parents will also. I would encourage parents to take that as a sign that it has been through the right scientific process, the right regulatory process so we can feel assured that it’s safe and that it works.
If you have questions, concerns, take them to your child’s pediatrician. We are all eager to talk to families about the COVID vaccine and about why families should get it, why even young children should get the vaccine. And to stand there with you, and answer any questions and provide the credible resources that are out there.