When I was in medical school in the 1980s, a surgeon came to my clinical-medicine course to talk about how to guide patients in making decisions. He presented a scenario in which a patient with breast cancer had to decide between a lumpectomy and a mastectomy. The surgeon suggested that we cite statistics and discuss risk, but he advised us to resist answering a personal question: Tell me, doctor, if this were your wife, what would you do? I cringed at the assumed male doctor–female patient setup, but his bigger point was clear. Doctors need to listen carefully to the different issues and histories that parents bring with them to the clinic, to address their anxieties. They should be wary of talking about themselves.
However, as a pediatrician, sometimes I do want to say: Just so you know, if this were my child, this is what I would do, because it’s what all my training is telling me.
This moment in the pandemic is one of those instances. When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, I want to say: If you were my 16-plus teenager, you’d be vaccinated. If you were my 12-to-15-year-old kid, you’d have your first shot by now. And if you were younger, I’d be counting the days until I could give you a vaccine.