Melissa St. Germain, M.D.
Meet the Maximizer
Dr. Melissa St. Germain talks about the physical and mental tolls COVID-19 takes on children and their families and shares her three biggest reasons to vaccinate your children now.
Dr. St. Germain is the Vice President and Medical Director of Children’s Physicians
How do you feel COVID-19 has affected the lives of children?
Physically, we’ve seen lots of kids with long COVID who’ve had months of not being able to taste and smell. We’ve had kids with heart issues and high blood pressure following COVID who can’t participate in their sports and activities. And we’ve seen a severe mental health toll on kids as well – increased rates of anxiety and depression, especially among teenagers and even younger kids. Our younger elementary school kids don’t even remember what it’s like to have a normal school year. And a lot of kids have lost grandparents, lost parents, even lost friends or lost their own lives due to COVID.
Why is it important for kids to be vaccinated against COVID-19?
The COVID-19 vaccine is one of our best ways out of this pandemic. It keeps kids protected from severe disease. It keeps them from transmitting COVID to those in the community who are still vulnerable, and from spreading it to their grandparents or to younger siblings who can’t get the vaccine yet.
How does vaccinating kids against COVID-19 benefit you personally?
I remember when my 13-year-old was able to get his first COVID-19 vaccine last spring. There was this sense of joy that we could finally start to address this pandemic among the population of my patients, which is the younger adolescent population. It felt wonderful to be able to offer that vaccine.
Then when it was approved for my younger two girls in the 5-to-11-year-old age group, there was a sense of relief as we started to see the COVID infection rate go back up over the winter. Being able to offer that protection, I was relieved that it decreased their risk of severe illness significantly.
How does vaccinating kids against COVID-19 benefit you professionally?
For the last two years, we’ve been putting so much energy and time and resources into fighting COVID that kids are missing out on some of the routine health care they need. We’ve even seen the vaccination rate against other illnesses has gone down a little bit, because not everyone’s coming in for their routine visits. So, being able to vaccinate kids against COVID-19 will allow us to use those resources the way we need to – to keep kids healthy and provide them with the preventive care that everybody needs.
How does vaccinating kids against COVID-19 benefit the community?
Vaccinating kids against COVID-19 provides an additional layer of protection for the whole community. It protects kids against getting infected. It prevents them from spreading infection to those community members that can’t be vaccinated. We still need to protect grandparents. And those who are immunocompromised may be able to get their COVID vaccines, but the vaccines don’t work as well because their immune systems don’t work very well.
If someone asked you, “Should I have my child vaccinated?” What would you say?
There are three points I always want to stress. First, the vaccine is safe. It’s well studied. Second, it’s effective. We have lots of research on this. It does help prevent COVID infection, including Omicron and all the other new variants that we’re seeing. And third, getting every eligible person vaccinated is really our way out of this pandemic.
Is there anything else you wish more people knew?
Sometime very soon, we’re going to see Pfizer present data for the vaccine for kids ages six months to four years. And we already know the vaccine is safe for that age group. The reason it’s taken so long to be approved is the question of efficacy. And they have shown that we probably need three doses of this vaccine in the younger kids. And that’s likely what the eventual recommendation will be.