Jason Burrows, M.D.
Meet the Maximizer
Dr. Jason Burrows talks about the far-reaching benefits of COVID-19 vaccination and reminds parents why it’s just as important to stay current on other childhood vaccines as well.
Jason Burrows, M.D. is an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and a pediatric hospital medicine physician at Children’s Hospital in Omaha
How do you feel that COVID-19 has impacted the lives of children?
COVID-19 has had a multifaceted impact on children. The part I see in my day-to-day practice is those kids who end up in the hospital sick with a COVID infection, or sometimes more severely with the multi-inflammatory syndrome that occurs four to six weeks later. We’ve seen COVID impact kids from a mental health standpoint, as well, in very significant ways.
Why is it important that kids are vaccinated against COVID-19?
The COVID-19 vaccine is an effective way for us to mitigate some of the illness we see in children. It’s also a way for us to help other parts of the population that are vulnerable and allow us to get back to a normal, pre-pandemic life, as we all want to do.
How does vaccinating kids against COVID benefit you on a personal level?
I have two children. One of them is old enough and is fully vaccinated, and actually had COVID in the last several weeks. It was a very mild illness, partially thanks to the vaccination, I think. Our youngest child is still too young to be vaccinated, the vaccine for his age does not have FDA approval, and we are anxiously awaiting that approval for him to receive the vaccine.
How does vaccinating kids against COVID-19 benefit you professionally?
It reduces the number of patients we see in the hospital. As many people know, all the hospital systems in Omaha and the region have been overwhelmed by the volume of patients we’re seeing. Anytime we can use an effective tool like vaccines to keep a child out of the hospital, it allows us to care for another patient that needs the facility, the nursing expertise, and the providers.
How does vaccinating kids against COVID-19 benefit the community?
We all know that vaccination reduces the spread of the virus and the overall disease burden. But it’s just as important for helping the community – and especially the kids – get their lives back to normal. My daughter is now back in school full time without a mask. And that’s thanks to multiple efforts across the community, but vaccinations being the primary one.
What would you tell someone who asks, “Why should my child get the COVID-19 vaccine?”
I would respond to a family member or a caregiver by sharing my personal experience. We see a lot of suffering among children who end up in the hospital with COVID-19 or related illnesses like MIS-C, and they didn’t need to be. Vaccines are a safer option than getting ill and ending up in the hospital.
Do you still see a lot of vaccine hesitation?
Yes. In fact, very often, parents who are skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine end up becoming hesitant about vaccines in general. I see parents with a six- or seven-year-old who is up to date on all the typical childhood vaccines, and then they have a two-year-old born during the pandemic who is not vaccinated at all. So, we want to make sure that, in addition to vaccinating all eligible children against COVID-19, we don’t lose ground on decades of prevention of other serious diseases in children.
And have you seen negative consequences of this?
Absolutely. We’ve seen children in our hospital with vaccine-preventable illnesses other than COVID-19 amongst families that have been hesitant to vaccinate since the start of the pandemic. I’ve seen kids with preventable meningitis – things I’ve never seen in almost 10 years of practice. I just want to reiterate that no matter how small your community is, no matter how much you protect your child by social distancing, these illnesses can find kids. They’re good at it. They’ve done it for decades and centuries. We want everyone to be fully vaccinated, so we don’t have to treat your child in the hospital with a devastating illness that could have been prevented.