I’m a Pediatrician and Can’t Wait to Throw Out My Mask. But Here’s Why I’m Concerned.

·4 min read
Getty
Getty

Like everyone who has taken the pandemic seriously and upended their lives to keep themselves from getting or spreading COVID-19, I am extremely excited to be able to put my life back together again.

Yesterday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a new, and much more liberated, set of guidelines for people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID. Everyone who is two weeks past their second dose of either the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, or the single dose of the Johnson & Johnson one, can return to both indoor and outdoor activities in most settings. This is wonderful, and very welcome news, though I’ve gotten used to lip syncing to Dua Lipa while doing my grocery shopping, and will probably just keep doing it even if everyone will be able to see me now.

Since I’m a pediatrician, my work life will still be masked for now, given that health-care settings are one of the exceptions to lifting masks for vaccinated people. One of these days, I hope I’ll be able to let my patients see me smiling at them again. But I’m happy to do everything I can to make sure those patients are safe.

It’s thinking about those patients that gives me one of my limited reservations about these new guidelines, however. While the Pfizer vaccine has been authorized for use in patients 12 and over (and I have been flogging the hell out of it every time I’ve seen patients that age this week), it’s not clear when any vaccine will be approved for kids younger than that. I’m encouraged to know that trials in patients as young as six months are ongoing, but it’s too early to know when the go-ahead will come.

Here’s How America Could Actually Vaccinate the World

Which means, in the meantime, many of my patients and kids nationwide will need to stay masked.

It’s been my observation that children overall have adapted very well to wearing masks, and kids are resilient little people. But I suspect it may be hard for many to be told they need to keep wearing them when the adults in their lives can stop. Even though overall the risk of serious illness from COVID is low in children, low is not the same as none, and severe cases in younger patients are very real. A new variant that may affect younger people more seriously is another possibility. Protecting kids remains extremely important.

I suspect that, when my fully vaccinated husband and I venture out more with our kids, we’ll keep masking so our very fairness-minded children feel supported. (Anyone who sees it as a good idea to confront us about virtue signaling is welcome to see how that turns out for them.)

My other major concern about the mask-free days to come is that these guidelines rely on unvaccinated people to keep masking, and to be forthcoming about that status. As businesses figure out how they are going to adapt to this whole new world, knowing they could count on patrons to be honest would help immensely in making plans that will safeguard the safety of everyone.

But if you believe the same people who think Naomi Wolf is making good sense about the vaccines are going to cough up the truth to a maître d' before taking their seat at a restaurant, please see me about a hot new purchase opportunity for shares in a diamond mine. There have already been warnings from law enforcement about phony vaccination cards circulating, and at least one man was arrested recently for allegedly selling such bogus cards to those keen on pretending they’re innoculated.

I am, like everyone, desperate to flood my life with all the joy I had to dam up last year. There is a dance floor with my name on it, and I will likely burst into tears when I can finally sing along under a disco ball to all the songs Kylie Minogue and Lady Gaga gave us last year. I want it so badly it hurts. I am thrilled that there are new guidelines that get us all so much closer to the things we long to have again.

I just hope my patients, like kids all around the country, will be able to keep doing what they must until the time comes when I finally get to start vaccinating them, too. And that there isn’t a toll yet to come from the dishonesty of people who haven’t bothered to do their part during the pandemic all along.

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