At long last, COVID-19 vaccines are now available to everyone ages 6 months and older. The Food and Drug Administration last week authorized and recommended the first COVID-19 vaccines for the nation’s youngest citizens.
This population, which stands at roughly 20 million, can now join the nearly 220 million people throughout the United States who are already fully vaccinated. For this demographic, the vaccine dose is substantially smaller than the adult dose and booster shots are not yet available.
According to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, COVID-19 vaccines have undergone – and will continue to undergo – the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.
“Together, with science leading the charge, we have taken another important step forward in our nation’s fight against COVID-19. We know millions of parents and caregivers are eager to get their young children vaccinated, and with today’s decision, they can. I encourage parents and caregivers with questions to talk to their doctor, nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the benefits of vaccinations and the importance of protecting their children by getting them vaccinated,” said CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky in a release issued by the department last week.
But do parents feel the same way?
Respondents to a recent poll conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 18 percent of parents are eager to get their children under the age of 5 vaccinated, while 38 percent say they plan to wait and see how the vaccine is working and 27 percent of respondents say they will “definitely not” get their child vaccinated.
Perhaps a more surprising statistic is that 56 percent of parents of children under the age of 5 say that they don’t feel as if they have enough information to judge whether the vaccine is safe and effective.
Currently, about 19 percent of COVID-19 cases involve children, making them as likely as adults to be infected, according to reporting from the Portland Press Herald. Children have been less likely to become severely ill, but, just as with adults, underlying conditions play a role. Factors like obesity, diabetes, asthma, congenital heart disease are linked to serious illness and death for children.
We also don’t know whether children who have had a mild case may be vulnerable to the lingering complex of symptoms known as long COVID. The safest course is doing everything reasonable to avoid getting infected in the first place.
As healthcare professionals have said throughout the last year, vaccines are key to tamping the virus.
The decision to get vaccinated is as much about protecting the community as it is about protecting oneself.
For parents who may be on the fence, or who feel they don’t have enough information, we encourage them to reach out to their child’s primary care provider and ask for a professional opinion. And, for healthcare providers, doctors and the like, ask how you can reach those people who still may be unsure.
We are still all in this together but unfortunately the virus is outlasting our collective patience.