I Couldn’t Wait to Get My Kids Vaccinated Against COVID-19. Here’s Why.
My 7-year-old received the first dose of his COVID-19 vaccine last week. There were some cheers and some tears (mostly mine, of happiness). Closing in on a year after the first vaccines began to be rolled out to health care workers, almost every group is now eligible for a dose. (Trials for children between six months and four years of age are still ongoing.)
After a long wait, COVID-19 vaccines are finally available for children ages 5 to 11 in the U.S. The Pfizer mRNA vaccine received the go-ahead from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Rochelle Walensky, M.D., M.P.H., on November 2, following recommendations from the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and prior to that, positive reviews from the FDA and their Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC). The news couldn’t come soon enough for many parents.
To date, more than 6 million children in the U.S. have had a confirmed COVID-19 infection, and while the risk of serious infections and death is lower in children than adults, more than 65,000 children have been hospitalized per CDC data. At least 5,500 of them have suffered from multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), and 48 deaths have been reported from this condition. Seven hundred children have died from COVID-19 in the United States. Furthermore, kids can readily transmit the virus to others, meaning vaccination can protect not only the individual child but the larger community.
The waves of rejoicing and relief
My youngest had been anxiously awaiting this day. His older cousins were able to be vaccinated over the summer; his brother and sister (both over 18) received the vaccines in early spring, when my partner and I did. So he’s long been the odd one out in our immediate family, and could not be more excited to get his COVID-19 vaccines.
Many other children (and their caregivers) have the same response.
“My children have abstained from all in-person activities since March 2020 and were very excited to get vaccinated,” says Theresa Chapple, Ph.D., an epidemiologist and local health department director whose 6- and 9-year-old children were able to get vaccinated shortly after the vaccine was authorized. “My 3-year-old was mad the entire day that she was not able to get vaccinated. She wakes up daily asking if it is her turn yet.”
“He was a champ,” Eric Green, Ph.D., an associate professor of the practice of global health at Duke University with a 7- and 3-year-old, says of his oldest, who received the vaccine recently. “Happy to get his lollipop and do his part. Thankfully no side effects in the first 40 hours post.”
Iowa pediatrician Amy Shriver, M.D., was able to get her 13-year-old vaccinated over the summer, but her 10-year-old was not yet eligible. “When the COVID-19 vaccine was approved for children 12 years and older, I was thrilled,” she says. “When she got her first vaccine, I burst into tears of joy and relief.”
The relentless nature of pandemic parenting—especially as a health professional
For many who are on the front lines of COVID-19 response or research, the last year and half has been beyond difficult. Jillian Carmichael, Ph.D., is a virologist and mother of 2 children, ages 7 and 4; living in Queens during the New York City outbreak in 2020 in a 650-square-foot apartment, her husband and children spent 100 days in Oklahoma with family during 2020 while Dr. Carmichael stayed behind in the city to carry out research.