Covid vaccines for kids: Why these families are jumping at the chance to get their children vaccinated
“I showed him the picture, and he read the box, and I think his eyes went straight to the 5- to 11-year-old (label),” said his mom Brandy Wittenborn.
“He said, ‘Wait – wait, that’s for us?’ We said ‘yes, that’s it.’ And he says, ‘You mean we’re going to take the picture soon?’ I said ‘yes, you want that.’ So he’s very excited.”
For Nate and his 11-year-old brother, the vaccine means sleepovers and a long-delayed vacation to Disneyland.
For a family in South Carolina, the shots mean a 10-year-old cancer survivor can finally go back to school after 17 months at home.
And for a family in California, the childhood vaccine is critical to help prevent new variants and end this pandemic for all.
Indiana parents want to protect their vulnerable patients
Brandy Wittenborn initially didn’t think she would ever have to vaccinate her three sons — Derek, now 11; Nate, now 8; and Will, now 4.
“When they were developing this vaccine, I honestly thought we wouldn’t need to vaccinate our kids who are maybe under 10 years old, if they weren’t so badly affected and not so much part of the spread of the disease.” . virus,” said the dental hygienist from Carmel, Indiana.
“But when we rolled out the adult vaccine, and you saw so much hesitation about the vaccine, it occurred to me: if we’re going to achieve any kind of herd immunity, it’s going to have to involve the under-10 group…and that.” was real before we started seeing some of these variants that affected kids a little bit more,” Wittenborn said.
“So when they started studying the vaccine in the crowd of 12 and older, the mRNA science seemed extremely safe compared to some of the other vaccines we’ve developed in history. I couldn’t really see that the risks were going to be no more for that younger audience than for adults.”
Wittenborn dug deep into the study, paying close attention to why U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisers recommended the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds.
“I listened to the entire FDA advisory meeting last week,” she said. “I’m a dental hygienist myself. My husband is a nephrologist — a kidney specialist. We have a large handful of physician friends in the area that we’ve listened to… When you see that over and over, ‘With trusted pediatricians, you think, well, this is what they do with their own child. So this is what we should do with ours.”
She said it is especially important to vaccinate her sons who are old enough because of the vulnerable people both parents work with.
“I work in a pediatric dental practice. I have many children with underlying medical conditions. Many patients with special needs who cannot wear a mask. My husband, who is a nephrologist, has patients with kidney disease, patients who need dialysis. And these patients who he sees are not healthy, have several underlying conditions,” said Wittenborn.
“So we’ve had to live with almost two years of, ‘What if one of the kids takes Covid home from school, passes it on to my husband and me, even though he and I have been vaccinated for a while, if we have a mild breakthrough, which we don’t realize we’re sick of, and he takes it to the dialysis center, to the hospital, or to the ICU?”
“So for us, the benefit of getting those guys vaccinated reduces the risk of us passing that infection on to someone who would have a more serious disease than either of us would have.”
She asked the family’s pediatrician about myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle that occasionally shows up in younger men after a second dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
She learned that myocarditis after vaccination is rare, and those who do get it often have mild, treatable cases – unlike some who get severe myocarditis as a result of Covid-19.
“I’ve talked to our pediatrician … if you have a myocarditis incident after a viral infection, it can be fatal, lead to hospitalizations, a more serious illness,” Wittenborn said, echoing what other pediatricians have said.
She said her 8- and 11-year-old sons are excited to get vaccinated.
“For them, it means they may not have to wear a mask indoors anymore. None of the boys have ever had sleepovers with their friends. This will make staying overnight easier. The boys will know that their grandparents will be a little safer with them more often.” or maybe they’ll be able to spend a little more time with their grandparents.”
And soon the family will finally be able to go to Disneyland.
“We had a Disneyland vacation booked for April 2020 that we had to cancel due to the pandemic,” said Wittenborn. “They’re definitely excited.”
A young cancer survivor wants to go back to school
Jodie Srutek’s 10-year-old daughter hasn’t been in a classroom for a year and a half.
She is a cancer survivor who is at high risk for severe Covid-19 if she becomes infected, Srutek said. But her school doesn’t require masks, and the risk of going to school unvaccinated is too high, said the mother from Bluffton, South Carolina.
“Once we can get the vaccine, we’ll get it,” Srutek said shortly before her daughter became eligible on Tuesday. “Even if it means driving two hours to get it…we’ll do it if we have to.”
But she’s already discovered access issues. Her pediatrician’s office said it didn’t have a freezer cold enough to store the Pfizer vaccine, which must be kept at a lower temperature than the Moderna vaccine used for adults in the area, Srutek said.
She learned that a local supermarket was planning to provide pediatric Covid-19 vaccines. But a crowded store would be unsafe for Srutek’s 10-year-old, who doesn’t want to be named after this story.
Although the girl’s kidney cancer is in remission, “she still has residual health effects from her treatment,” Srutek said.
While some parents have expressed concerns about possible long-term side effects after vaccination, “we are certainly more concerned about the long-term effects of Covid,” Srutek said.
“I don’t know of any vaccines that have long-term effects for most people — it’s usually pretty quick if there’s a side effect,” Srutek said, echoing what doctors have said about the improbability of vaccine side effects in the long term.
For her daughter, the vaccine is “a ticket back to normal” — including birthday parties and a return to personal learning for the first time since March 2020.
“I want it so bad that I can go to school and see my friends!” said the 10-year-old.
“I will be able to go to the park even if there are a lot of other people. And I will be able to go to Disney World and Universal again.”
Vaccinating children helps prevent new variants, says scientist and mother
Alicia Zhou didn’t just read reports about Covid-19 vaccines. She insisted on reviewing all primary data before vaccinating her 6-year-old son Davi.
“I didn’t just take anyone’s word for it,” said Zhou, the chief science officer at Color, a company that specializes in public health infrastructure.
“I’ve looked at the evidence from clinical trials and I’ve evaluated it. And frankly, it’s some of the most impressive data … I’ve seen when it comes to vaccination,” the molecular biologist said.
“I could see that if you’re just reading it from a press release, or you’re just reading it from a news article, you might feel like it’s an exaggeration or a rosy version of the truth. But after you get to the primary data itself, It’s very, very convincing.”
So as a scientist and as a mother “it feels like a no-brainer to get my child vaccinated.”
While children are generally at a lower risk of serious illness from Covid-19, pediatricians say they are still at risk for long-term complications, no matter how minor their initial symptoms were. Covid-19 has also killed more than 790 children aged 0 to 17 and sent more than 65,000 to hospitals.
While the likelihood of severe Covid-19 among children may seem low, Zhou said she doesn’t want to take the risk.
“If I give you a bag of 1,000 M&Ms and I say only one of them will kill you, would you let your kid eat one?”
But Davi’s vaccine will not only benefit himself, his mother said.
“If we think about, why is the pandemic dragging on? Where are these new variants coming from? And how does that make us prolong this pandemic? The reality is that the virus is evolving and changing and adapting,” Zhou said. .
“And as long as you keep having pools of unvaccinated and susceptible individuals, it gives the virus more chance to keep replicating and evolving and changing. And thus our best protection against the development of new variants that could become even more beneficial than even Delta.” should increase the amount of vaccination within the population or immunity within the population – either by getting Covid-19 or by getting vaccinated.”
Justin Lear of CNN contributed to this report.