May 11, 2021 — Although much is still being learned about the side effects of the coronavirus, a local legislator feels like more progress can be made to educate constituents about the benefits of vaccines and their effects in the long battle against the pandemic.
U.S. Eighth District Rep. Kim Schrier (D) took time to talk with reporters last week in a virtual roundtable event, where she used her experience as a physician to weigh in on issues related to the pandemic.
Schrier said much of this year’s session in Congress has focused on dealing with the pandemic, focusing on issues such as the rollout of the vaccines to help bring down case counts and reduce deaths from the disease.
“We’ve been focusing on how we respond to the pandemic, both medically, socially, and economically,” she said during the roundtable. “For me, it was teaching many of my colleagues on things such as herd immunity, contagiousness, the effectiveness of masks, social distancing, and contact tracing.”
Schrier said she sees the need for continued rapid testing to be done in conjunction with the vaccine rollout, saying she thinks about how the current situation in India would look if they had the ability to conduct more rapid testing.
“That would be an effective way to curb the spread,” she said. “I’m not sure we’ll get to a post-COVID place without that.”
Schrier said she is also thrilled with how the American Rescue Plan rolled out, saying it hit the high points of helping focus on economic relief, especially in the field of education.
“It’s also helped small businesses, so they don’t go under during the pandemic,” she said. “It’s also helped families that have been hit hard during the pandemic. We’ve had a lot of situations where we’ve had cuts in salaries, so making sure we have a plan for cash payments, as well as state and local funding is fantastic.”
THE PATH AHEAD
Schrier said she has been maintain focus on the future of being able to vaccinate children during the pandemic, saying it is commonsense to ensure adults can safely be vaccinated before opening up the ability for pregnant women and children to follow suit.
“You’d never try something with everyone at the same time,” she said. “We’ve seen such great results, as well as a great safety and efficacy record in adults that a lot of us were asking from the beginning about what’s going on in testing in children. We knew Pfizer would be the first, but Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are coming up quickly. Pfizer was clearly ahead of the others in testing.”
Schrier said the early consensus was that approval may come in late summer for high school-aged students to be able to receive vaccines before the start of the next school year, but the safety record with the vaccines helped speed up the process. Despite the speed at which vaccines have become available to people under the age of 18, she said there are still hurdles to overcome regarding the rollout.
“There is already vaccine hesitancy out there,” she said. “It is different, and perhaps amplified when you’re talking about people’s children, especially during a pandemic where we’ve been saying we are lucky that kids are only mildly affected by this and they seem to not get serious disease,” she said. “The thinking about kids is their role as a vector and part of the transmission chain, but people have gotten really used to hearing that, and that’s not really the case anymore. What we’re seeing now in Michigan is that kids are also ending up in the hospital, with some on ventilators.”
Along with children starting to show more extreme symptoms of the disease, Schrier said an additional concern is the higher contagiousness of the disease variants that have surfaced within the country.
“I think the first message we are going to have to get across is that this is not a benign illness for children,” she said. “The second message we need to get across is that we’re seeing this phenomenon of long COVID we’ve been hearing about mostly in 20 to 40-year-olds that are mostly healthy and might even have an asymptomatic case of COVID, but then get these potentially devastating lingering effects. This is not just a cold. There is something strange about this coronavirus that is showing lingering effects, and we are hearing about athletes who can barely get up to take a shower. We’re talking about people who lose their sense of taste and smell for months. I think that is something we need to have in the calculation, whether it’s young people going to college or parents thinking about whether to get their kids vaccinated.”