In Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first inaugural address he said the following words: “Let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is ... fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Historians debate where Roosevelt came up with this belief and his wife Eleanor suggested it came from Henry David Thoreau’s writings in 1851. Merriam-Webster defines fear as an unpleasant emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger, and an anxious concern.

The recent pandemic has justifiably created great anxiety and fear in all our minds. It seemed sudden, enormous and deadly. Most of the population had never experienced anything like it. For most of us, it was our first rodeo.

Then there was an appropriate and concentrated effort to develop a vaccine. This type of vaccine also is a new concept and had to be tested to see whether it worked and if it would be safe.

The science behind understanding this disease is complicated and not something most of us learned in Biology 101. The new vaccine also is complicated, leading to misunderstanding and fear, the nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.

Vaccines are one of the most successful aspects of modern medicine saving millions of children from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio, smallpox and measles, just to name a few.

Unfortunately, there has developed a fear of vaccines possibly because of the number of vaccines and the complexity of how they work. There’s much information available, but it’s difficult to sort through this information in this age of self-publishing and alternative facts. Confusion leads to unreasoning, unjustified terror.

Recently, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisory panel voted 14-0 to recommend using the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine in children ages 12-15. The panel’s review of data showed there was some common side effects such as headache, chills, sore arm, fever and joint pain.

There were 6 percent reports of adverse events including constipation and neuralgia, depression and anxiety. None of the serious events were determined to be related to the vaccine. There were no reports of blood clots, serious allergic reactions or Bell’s palsy.

Vaccine efficacy for the age group 12-15 years was 100 percent and review of the immune response was even better than the age group 16-25 years.

The president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Lee Savio Beers, recently said, “As a pediatrician and a parent, I have looked forward to getting my own children and patients vaccinated, and I am thrilled that those ages 12 and older can now be protected. The data continue to show that this vaccine is safe and effective.” My own 13-year-old grandniece was among the first in line to get her first shot.

Call your health care provider or local health district for information about the location of the vaccine. The Teen Health Centers of Galveston Independent School District’s middle and high school have vaccines for 12 years and older. Call 409-761-3530 for more details. The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.

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Bailey Jones

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