COVID Vaccinations Are Great Choices For Children, But Parents Are Reluctant To Agree | Seattle Times

The Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 on Friday suddenly makes 28 million unvaccinated children in the United States eligible for vaccination and gives the country the opportunity to join in its efforts for broad immunity to the coronavirus.

But in a nation already grappling with the reluctance of COVID vaccines, getting shot in those little arms can pose the toughest vaccination challenge yet to health officials.

Even many parents who are self-vaccinated and have approved vaccination for their teenagers are unsure about whether to give their younger children consent and wonder if the unknowns’ risk of a new vaccine is worth it when most coronavirus cases are around Adolescents are mild.

Announcing the approval of a lower-dose shot made by Pfizer and BioNTech for the age group, the FDA said clinical study data showed the shot was safe and elicited strong immune responses in children. The most common side effects were fatigue, fever, and headache.

Infectious disease experts say that with vacations and family gatherings ahead, widespread vaccination of younger children could help keep classes personal, reduce the chance of quarantines, and reduce the risk of transmission to older, vulnerable adults – as well as the children protect from what is the eighth biggest killer in their age group, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. To date, nearly 2 million children, ages 5-11, have contracted the virus and 8,300 have been hospitalized. A third of hospital patients were admitted to intensive care units, and at least 170 have died.

However, a report from researchers at Northeastern, Harvard, Rutgers and Northwestern Universities earlier this month found that parents’ concerns about the COVID vaccination had increased “significantly” from June to September. The most important among them, according to the researchers, are the vaccine’s novelty, whether it has been adequately tested, effectiveness, side effects and long-term health consequences.

According to a survey published by the Kaiser Family Foundation on Thursday, hardly every third parent allows their children in this new age group to be vaccinated immediately. Two thirds were either reluctant or decidedly against it. An Axios-Ipsos survey found that 42% of the parents of these children said their children are unlikely to be vaccinated.

Erin Gauch, of Middletown, Rhode Island, got herself and her two older children, ages 14 and 12, vaccinated this summer. However, she is concerned about the possible side effects of the shots on her son. One of these side effects is myocarditis, a weakening of the heart muscle that has been reported in a very small number of teenage boys and young men after receiving a COVID vaccination.

“I look to a nine year old and if I make a bad decision and he ends up having some debilitating side effects or lifelong side effects, I don’t think I could live with that,” she said.

This vaccination dilemma comes at a turbulent cultural moment for parents of young children whose decisions are often harshly judged on social media. The election may seem fraught with political affiliation. Making a decision, intentional or not, can mean compassion or disregard for others and a willingness to follow or ignore the advice of your pediatrician.

“If we finally decide not to have my youngest vaccinated now, I will probably be exposed to the shame of mommy, but I just have to put up with it,” said Gauch.

Many parents, like Gauch, are focused on some research suggesting the rare possibility that young men and boys could develop pericarditis, cardiac weakening, and myocarditis, but the FDA-reviewed clinical trial data showed no cases in age group 5 -11. Many experts say that conditions tend to improve quickly and that COVID is a far greater risk for severe myocarditis.

The Biden government recently announced that the syringes will mainly be given by pediatricians, community health centers and children’s hospitals, as well as pharmacies and schools, who will bear the burden of persuading parents.

However, a policy paper by Kaiser noted that schools and pharmacists in regions with low COVID vaccination rates may be reluctant to participate. Access in rural areas and for working parents will be significant challenges, the authors said, noting that achieving justice will also be a concern; more than half of the newly eligible children are black children.

After an initial onslaught of eager parents (as has happened with adults and teenagers), pediatricians say they are preparing for conversations they expect to be some of the thorniest they have ever had.

“I know parents are likely to be bombarded with misinformation about vaccines, even in their social circles: ‘My friend said that. That’s what my mother-in-law said, ‘”said Dr. Katherine Williamson, a pediatrician in Orange County, California. “I hope I can make a difference.”

The decision is especially difficult for parents to make on behalf of their first child, said Emily Brunson, a Texas State University medical anthropologist who studies vaccination choices for parents. Because vaccine decision-making is so personal and complicated, many parents would likely put it off.

Vic Sandrin, who works for a bicycle company in Vancouver, Washington, supports vaccines, but cautiously. He, his wife, and their 18-year-old were reluctantly given the COVID vaccine to travel on work and family visits.

However, he is content to wait for his eleven-year-old twins.

“I’m ready to take a risk and that made sense; I’m an adult, ”said Sandrin. “But for children who already have strong immune systems, I don’t know if there is a reason to get them vaccinated, or at least not yet.”

In essence, the decision is about which unknown – COVID or the vaccine – the parents fear more. You can stack factors such as social routines, elderly relatives, school protocols, and the likelihood of serious illness to confirm your intuitive bias to allow your child the injection.

The mechanical engineer Gauch calculated the risk of each family member individually. She has asthma so the vaccine was a breeze for her. Her 14 year old daughter got her first job this summer; The vaccination prevented her from having to wear a face mask at work. And her 12-year-old daughter saw that vaccination could open up opportunities to be maskless in public. Made and made.

Not only is Gauch worried about side effects in her 9-year-old son, she also said the vaccination doesn’t absolve him from following other COVID rules as his school insists on masks and social distancing.

“He’s much less likely to get COVID if you take all of these precautions,” she said. “So I just don’t see the vaccine’s risk payoff.”

Parents who tended not to vaccinate their child tended to dismiss the risk of serious illness from COVID as tiny, saying that seriously ill children were most likely to have underlying illnesses.

The argument that vaccinating children contributes to the general health of the community also does not resonate with much. Parents focus on the well-being of their own child. Although health officials claim a big reason to vaccinate is to protect the child, some parents said they believed their healthy children would be injected with a novel vaccine, mainly to protect older adults who had already lived full lives.

In interviews, some parents said they would consider withdrawing their students if the vaccine has full approval for children (like the adult dose) and schools required it. Dr. Cynthia Bader, a Seattle area pediatrician with an 8-year-old son, said that if her school district gave a vaccination mandate, she would clap her hands for joy, but “then at the idea of ​​all the parents who are going to.” Come to me for advice on vaccine exemption forms.

Parents isolate themselves with like-minded friends, which strengthens their thinking.

“It used to be a match for more people with different opinions, but now I don’t think that’s the case,” said Abby Cooper of Bergen County, New Jersey, who is dying to get her five children vaccinated.

But she has friends who refuse.

“Your children go to school with my children and put them at risk for no reason. It’s very annoying, “said Cooper.” So unfortunately I lost friends over it. “

Many parents fear that the tension will affect the children themselves. Some include putting limits on unvaccinated playmates, especially if exposure to the virus could put someone else in the house at risk.

Many parents will be hard to convince. The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have released talking points for pediatricians and other proponents of the COVID vaccine for children.

Consensus: First, respond to parents’ questions. But if you don’t want to hear The Talk, don’t force it.

Consensus: Fear tactics – generalized descriptions of children suffering on COVID wards – don’t work.

Consensus: Emphasize the benefits of the COVID vaccine for the child in terms of emotional and physical wellbeing, including a pretense of social life before COVID. Call up quarantines, distance learning.

Kim Cobb hopes her family’s COVID tests will show others the benefits of vaccinating all eligible family members. She, her husband, and their two older daughters, 14 and 12, got vaccinated quickly. But in August, her unvaccinated 10-year-old twins contracted COVID. Shortly after, Cobb, a climate scientist at Georgia Tech, and her husband tested positive for breakthrough infections. Her two vaccinated children remained healthy.

The parents became seriously ill but did not need to be hospitalized, which they believed was because they were vaccinated.

All recovered, but Cobb and one twin experience persistent shortness of breath.

“We are in the third month after infection and we need to see pulmonologists, we have inhalers, we take medication and we still have difficulty breathing,” said Cobb. “And this is not a child who has ever had respiratory symptoms.

“That wasn’t predictable,” she continued. “If you could avoid it, you would.”

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