During the current conflict over vaccines and masks, the words of Oliver Cromwell, the Lord Protector of the Commonwealth, come to mind. In 1650, speaking to the Assembly of the Church of Scotland, he pleaded with his countrymen, “I beseech you, in the bowels of Christ, think it possible you may be mistaken.”
As a pediatrician, it is my privilege, honor and thrill to care for newborn babies. It is equally exciting to talk to their mothers and fathers. In my experience, there is no new parent — veteran or first-timer — who does not want the best for their infant. With that understanding, the thought that some folks resist their kids wearing a simple mask in school is baffling at best.
Women sacrifice their own lives to make this miracle. They give up their bodies to form this wonder inside them. They endure the hard work of appropriately named labor. Some will subject themselves to the surgical opening of their abdomen and uterus to safely extract their fetus.
Parents stay up all night with a feverish, ill crying child. They read to them to open their minds and lips. They sing songs to pacify them to sleep. Mothers feed them nutrition produced by their own bodies. They kneel together at the bedside to say a nightly prayer for protection. They comfort them when their youngsters are afraid of the dark. They hold hands crossing the street after insisting on looking both ways.
This is where the confusion starts. With this nasty coronavirus delta variant, people who are vaccinated are incredibly less likely to need hospitalization. Better yet, with the immunity created by immunizations, a person is less likely to die. So why all the fuss about masks for kids in school while we wait for the science to confirm the safety and efficacy of vaccines for children younger than 12?
While the vaccines generally protect the critical parts of the lungs and other targeted organs, they are not powerful enough to prevent the SARS-CoV-2 virus from populating the nasal passages. That is the explanation for the necessity of masks.
This brings us back to the role of parents to protect their children from unnecessary harm. I plead with those who resist getting shots for themselves, or for any child over 12 years of age, to pause and ask themselves why. With the same vigor, I say the same for you to encourage — no, insist — on the universal use of masks for all in school.
Every objection to these precautions has counter reasons that rely on the desire to protect the welfare of you and your family. It is not a grand government conspiracy. The virus that is making younger people sick is not a plot or political ploy.
Listen to the patients just before their intubation when they plead too late for the vaccine. Donald Trump received the shots along with his family.
A parent’s freedom to not provide appropriate medical care ends when that position puts their child and others at risk.
No parent has the right to put their child in harm’s way. A person’s right to swing their arms ends inches from another person’s face. The freedom for a parent to say no stops exactly where the damage starts.
For those who are fearful, this is when that anxiety needs to be confronted with decisive resolve to dread the disease more than the injection or mask.
Please, moms and dads, reflect on your commitment to the baby you made and the child you are creating. Pause for a moment to examine the roots of any reluctance. Could there be the slightest possibility that the assumptions are mistaken that have prevented immunizations and the wearing of simple masks for yourselves and your children?
God bless all parents during this time of worldwide distress.
Joseph Grant Cramer, M.D., is a pediatrician who launched the first Children’s Primary Hospital outreach clinic in Kearns and practiced for more than 30 years at Cottonwood Pediatrics in Murray. He is a former president of the Utah Medical Association and is now in semi-retired practice in Ridgecrest, California.