Opinion: Patient-centered decisions should be respected when it comes to both children, adults

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center discusses Gov. Jay Inslee’s unwillingness to trust providers to help state residents to make decisions for themselves.

Elizabeth Hovde of the Washington Policy Center discusses Gov. Jay Inslee’s unwillingness to trust providers to help state residents to make decisions for themselves

Elizabeth Hovde
Washington Policy Center

It was a big weekend for COVID-19 vaccine advancement. On Friday, June 17, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the use of Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots for children as young as 6 months old. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) affirmed that decision on Saturday, and the Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup announced it was on board with the decision Sunday.

Elizabeth Hovde
Elizabeth Hovde

“Immunization can be expected to reduce the numbers of COVID-19-related serious illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths in infants and young children, while facilitating their participation in normal educational, social and recreational activities,” reads a statement from the workgroup. It also says, “Observed vaccine reactions among infants ages 6-12 months and children ages 1 through 5 years were consistent with reactions to other vaccines routinely recommended for use in these age groups.” 

The decision to vaccinate children or keep them unvaccinated will require parents and pediatricians to weigh known and unknown risks, as has been the case for all age groups.

Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee reacted to the news in a press release saying, “This is excellent news for Washington families and I know many parents who have been eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get their youngest children vaccinated.” He added, “These vaccines remain the most important tool in our continued efforts to keep people safe from severe COVID illness or hospitalization.”

This is good news for parents wanting to get their young children vaccinated. There are also many parents taking a hard pass. Hopefully, both groups can be respected for their decisions. They are being presented a no-win situation, given all we know and don’t know about COVID-19 and the vaccines available. Fear of the unknown — and the known — is hallmark COVID-19. Parents don’t need any more grief.

I was glad to see Inslee say, “I encourage parents to contact their trusted providers to discuss any questions or concerns.” I hope he means that. When adults and teens were encouraged in this way, patient-centered decisions about the vaccine were not respected. Some Washingtonians who took medical advice not to vaccinate were chastised, told they were being reckless and harming others. Providers themselves who did not take the COVID-19 shots, along with many hospital workers and state employees, were not only chastised, they lost their jobs. 

Instead of allowing all Washingtonians to make patient-centered health decisions about vaccines that have proven unable to stop COVID-19 transmission and contraction, our state is stuck with a government-centered approach to the health decision. It has adversely impacted individuals and state services, with no demonstrable health benefit. 

Vaccines are useful tools in our continued efforts to stay safe from hospitalization or death related to COVID-19, as the governor said. Vaccine mandates are not and should be eliminated immediately. 

Inslee hasn’t trusted providers to help state residents make decisions in the past. Let’s hope he’s ready now.

Elizabeth Hovde is a policy analyst and the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. She is a Clark County resident.

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