Jessica SnowdenBeing a doctor-mom means many things that look a little different in my home compared to when I was growing up. The day the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine was approved for emergency use in ages 5-11, my ten-year-old, Oliver, came bounding down the stairs excitedly asking, "Is it shot day?" is a perfect example. While he has always been pretty good with vaccines and other medical procedures, this is the first time he's been looking forward to something like this. I asked him why he was so excited. In a perfect mix of doctor's kid and typical ten-year-old, he said, "I'll be safe and keep everyone else safe, and I can go back to eating inside restaurants again and normal stuff!" There have been so many hugs and smiles in our house over the last week as we watched each step of the vaccine review get us closer and closer to "shot day."

As an infectious disease doctor, I've been immersed in COVID-19 research and data every day for almost two years. It is incredible how much we've learned so quickly, building on decades of earlier research, to get vaccines that are safe and effective against the virus that has taken over every aspect of our lives. As a pediatrician, I've spoken with too many parents and caregivers at the hospital bedside about their child's complications from COVID-19. I've talked with families of children who are still having symptoms related to their COVID-19 infection months later, frustrated at how little we have to offer them to make things better. As a mom, every day, I've held my breath and crossed my fingers that my son and his friends will stay safe as I hug him on his way out to school. Through it all, I've watched the progress of the COVID-19 vaccine trials in children, knowing as both a mom and a doctor how essential it is to get our kids back to childhood.

It feels like it did several months ago when I could get vaccinated myself as a health care provider. I released the weight of fear and anxiety I never realized I was carrying for myself and my child. It is a time of laughing and crying all at once, not just for me but for so many other moms (and dads) I know. As parents, we know the huge responsibility we have in protecting the children entrusted to us. It is the biggest, most important job we have every moment of every day. My son received his COVID-19 vaccine the day the FDA approved the usage. Ironically, I was the one in tears, even though I wasn't the one getting the shot. Not only did he take a huge step in protecting himself from the COVID-19 virus, but I know we also took a huge step in protecting his and every other kid's chance to get back to childhood.

We can’t wait! 

Jessica Snowden, M.D., M.S., MHPTT, is an infectious disease specialist at Arkansas Children’s, the executive associate dean for research in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), where she is also the section chief in the division of infectious disease and a professor in the department of pediatrics.

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