Surgeon General Reflects On 4-Year-Old’s Positive Covid Test In Viral Twitter Thread
“In these moments, it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or Surgeon General. We are parents first.”
On Feb. 15, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy shared on Twitter that his 4-year-old daughter, too young to be vaccinated, had tested positive for Covid-19. Murthy took the opportunity to reflect on parenting during the pandemic, which he described as “one of the hardest jobs I could have imagined.”
In an eight-part Twitter thread, Murthy said that her illness has made him all the more grateful that he, his wife, Dr. Alice Chen, and 5-year-old son are vaccinated, not only because they are unlikely to fall seriously ill if she passes Covid to them, but that isolating her in a small house would be difficult. Murthy says she is suffering with a fever, sore throat, and “isn’t her usual bubbly self,” and while he feels confident her age and overall good health mean she will not become seriously ill, “I know parents with higher risk kids may worry more.”
“Staring at my daughter’s positive test, I asked myself the same questions many parents have asked: Will my child be ok? Could I have done more to protect her? Was this my fault?” he wrote. “In these moments, it doesn’t matter if you’re a doctor or Surgeon General. We are parents first. Parenting during the pandemic has been one of the hardest jobs I could have imagined. I have immense respect for the millions of parents who are grappling with the daily, exhausting decision-making that goes into protecting our kids’ health and their education.”
For millions of families around the world, it’s a familiar feeling, to be sure. The stress of navigating parenting and Covid has been the subject of much spilled ink in the press, in public policy, and all over any corner of the internet where parents gather, from Twitter to Facebook groups. While vaccines have been available to 12 to 15-year-olds since May 2021 and 5 to 11-year-olds since November 2021, inoculating infants and pre-schoolers has been an evasive goal for many worried parents. While many expected forward momentum from the FDA earlier this month, the agency announced it would wait on data pertaining to a three-dose shot rather than two on Feb. 11.
In his Twitter thread, Murthy said he wished this wasn’t the case. “I wish a vaccine was available for my child and for all kids <5. It would protect kids and help parents,” he wrote. “Unfortunately more data is still needed from clinical trials for the FDA to make a full assessment. I know a safe, effective vaccine for <5s remains a top priority for them.”
While vaccination availability and efficacy has ameliorated some families concerns about serious illness, the lack of protection has inhibited a “return to normal” for millions of families with very young children.
Certainly, his daughter falling ill was not Murthy’s first personal foray into the dire consequences of Covid, even outside of being the Surgeon General of the United States. At a July 2021 White House press conference he urged Americans to get vaccinated by sharing that the coronavirus had taken a serious toll on his family. “I say that as someone who has lost 10 family members to Covid-19 and who wishes each and every day that they had had the opportunity to get vaccinated.”
In a follow-up to his original tweet, Murthy shared a video message thanking people for well-wishes and giving an update on his daughter, “She’s still coughing, still has a bit of a low-grade temperature, but she’s smiling and that means the world to us.” He also shared that she was feeling well enough to attend a virtual class and, in a statement uttered by parents all over the world for the past two years, smiled, “You might actually hear her behind me.”
“I know many parents have gone through this same situation through the last two years,” he said, “and I know some parents are going to go through this in the weeks ahead.” It was an important reminder that while Covid cases are trending downward in the U.S. over all, this pandemic is not yet over, and until our youngest children can be vaccinated, we must remain vigilant.