By Dr. Stephen J. Playe
Since I graduated from medical school, a combination of factors has made the old saying “Trust me, I’m a doctor” more of a punch line than a reassurance. Too bad, because now, more than ever, we need somebody to trust. Take the question of Covid vaccination. You might want to trust Dr. Joseph Ladapo, Governor DeSantis’ appointee as Florida’s surgeon general. Dr. Ladapo has just announced that Florida will be “the first state to officially recommend against the Covid-19 vaccine for healthy children.”
I, for one, don’t trust him. I trust many virologists, public health experts, epidemiologists, vaccinologists, and infectious disease specialists. He is none of these. There is another reason I don’t trust him: I question his motives.
His career aspirations ride on the success of DeSantis. He remains in obedient lock-step with the governor, whose shameless pursuit of political gain has taken him from vaccine advocate in early 2021 to a histrionic vaccine opponent now, and who made national news by angrily, and wrongly, telling high school students that masks “don’t work.”
At his confirmation hearing, Dr. Ladapo refused to say if he was vaccinated. What doctor does that? He refused to wear a mask when State Sen. Tina Polsky (who was about to start radiation therapy for cancer) requested he do so for their meeting. What doctor does that? I’ll tell you: a doctor who has forsaken his sacred Hippocratic Oath to put the welfare of others ahead of his own interests. His new pledge, apparently, is to the ambitious, opportunist governor of our state. As surgeon general Dr. Ladapo arguably has all the citizens of our state as his patients. This scares me.
There is room for informed discussion about the cost benefit ratio of Covid vaccination in younger age groups. What’s the benefit? There is admittedly less benefit for children because they tend to have less severe disease. But tens of thousands of U.S. children have been so sick with Covid that they were hospitalized, and we have sadly just hit the 1,000th pediatric death in the U.S. Most of these very ill children had comorbidities (including things as common as obesity) but many were otherwise healthy.
Each day that goes by we learn more about the long-term damage Covid can cause to the heart, brain, and kidneys, even after mild cases. And the vaccines do work very well to reduce illness, severity, and mortality. What is the cost of vaccinating kids? Not much. No out-of-pocket expense, minor side effects and no vaccine-related deaths reported after tens of millions of pediatric vaccinations. So, I recommend vaccinations for my grandchildren. Easy decision.
But you don’t have to trust me. I’m a retired ER doc you have never met. But you can trust my doctor. I trust her especially since she recently saved my life. She is young, smart as could be, an infectious disease specialist, and perhaps most importantly, the mother of young twin girls. I asked her what she thought about vaccinating her twins and she said: “When vaccines are available for their age group, we will be the first in line. I’ll hold one down and my husband will hold down the other.”
So, my doctor and I both promote the vaccine for our kids and grandkids. Why? Because we love them. And you can trust us. We’re doctors.
Stephen Playe, M.D., lives in the Hammock.