The Pfizer COVID vaccine is now FDA- and CDC-approved for children between the ages of 5 and 11, though just one-third of parents of kids in that age group plan on vaccinating their children right away.
According to data collected by the Kaiser Family Foundation (conducted Sept. 13 to 22, with the bulk of interviews concluding before Pfizer’s announcement), about one-third of parents polled (32%) say they will “wait and see” how the vaccine is working before having their child vaccinated. One in four parents (24%) say they "definitely won’t" get their child vaccinated.
As for the 32% of parents who are eager for their children to be vaccinated "right away," well, they're eager to get their children protected with the vaccine. Over four dozen of these parents reached out to me to share why they're not hesitating to make their kids an appointment to get the vaccine.
Some parents have prior experiences of having their kids hospitalized, and want to do anything they can to prevent it from reoccurring.
"My daughter has already been hospitalized [in 2019] for a severe RSV infection," Lisa Griswold of East Amherst, NY, tells Motherly. "She was in isolation and on oxygen cannula for days. This left her with some respiratory deficits similar to asthma. I will do anything I can to protect her from COVID and will be first in line to get her vaccinated."
Other parents, like Mike Julianelle (also known as "Dad and Buried"), are eager for their children to get vaccinated because their family members are immunocompromised.
"My wife and I can't wait to get our kids vaccinated!" he says of his sons, 6 and 11. "My wife has MS and is on immune-suppressing medication. So despite the fact that we are vaccinated and she's been boosted, the vaccine is a lot less effective for her. Our kids being unprotected at school is a huge source of anxiety for everyone. We're getting them their shots ASAP."
The concept of "community immunity," or herd immunity, is vital in the fight against COVID and a return to normalcy. When enough people are vaccinated against a certain disease, germs are unable to pass easily from person to person.
"As a disabled man, it greatly concerns me how much this virus has impacted—and continues to impact—the disabled."
Community immunity protects everyone—but especially those who are more vulnerable, like people with compromised immune systems, the older adult population, and people who are medically unable to receive the COVID vaccine.
Richard Morin of Ottowa, Canada, says he and his wife are "fully on board" with getting their son vaccinated because he's increasingly vulnerable to the virus. Morin has solar urticaria, an autoimmune disease that causes his body to develop an allergic reaction to the sun. He also has Raynaud's disease, a short-term interruption of blood flow to the extremities, such as the fingers and toes.
"As a disabled man, it greatly concerns me how much this virus has impacted—and continues to impact—the disabled," he says.
Hannah Gokie, a mother of three in Omaha, NE, says she's "counting down the days" until her children who are eligible can get the vaccine. Because of leukemia, her husband has a low-functioning immune system.
"He's on chemo for the rest of his life, so anything that will help reduce his risk is a win in my book," she says. "I've talked to my pediatrician already and can't wait for open slots to sign them up."
Arizona mom Catherine Astrada has a son who is almost 5 years old, whom she says is high-risk for contracting COVID. Her son has a history of asthma and hereditary spherocytosis—a condition that causes the production of fragile and abnormal red blood cells.
"At his best, he runs with constant low-level anemia, and any virus can cause his red blood cells to break down even more rapidly, causing jaundice and unusual tiredness," Astrada explains. Her son receives multiple blood transfusions per year, and the impact of COVID on his health could be severe.
"He could have serious complications if he gets COVID," she says. "I'll take vaccine side effects any day."
The original strain of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) appeared to have a lesser impact on children than the more contagious Delta variant, which is now the predominant strain of the virus.
"I miss being able to have loud, crazy kids over. I miss giving the kids opportunities to take fun classes, I miss volunteering at their school, I miss traveling with them. I feel like I've lost over a year of my life, and a year of my kids' young childhoods where they still like me."
"Any time I take the kids to do something fun, or even just drop them off at school, I feel like I'm rolling dice," says Maryland mom Amy B. Right now, one-third of her child's class is quarantined due to COVID exposure. For Amy and many other parents, getting her kids vaccinated means a return to normal life.
"I miss being able to have loud, crazy kids over. I miss giving the kids opportunities to take fun classes, I miss volunteering at their school, I miss traveling with them," she says. "I feel like I've lost over a year of my life, and a year of my kids' young childhoods where they still like me."
John VanGundy's kids have immunocompromised friends that they've been unable to play with throughout the pandemic.
"They can't play or hang out and it rips my heart out," says the Kansas City dad.
His wife, Jodi, is a pediatrician, which comes in handy with friends of theirs who are hesitant to get their children vaccinated. He and his wife empathize with parents who may be on the fence about getting their kids vaccinated right away.
It is, after all, a major medical decision amid a pandemic that has caused most people to agonize over every decision they've made for nearly two years now.
That being said, the technology used in mRNA vaccines has been in development for nearly two decades—this gave vaccine makers an immediate abundance of knowledge in creating the COVID vaccine. That, in addition to collaboration among scientists worldwide and funding, allowed vaccine production to occur the way it did.
The FDA has certified that the mRNA vaccines have followed all routine protocols in their creation without missing any steps.
But it can feel as though we're all navigating through "information overload," which is why VanGundy knows it can help to connect about these issues in a more personal way.
"It has led to us comforting our friends who truly just haven't understood enough to be comfortable," he explains. "It really helps to hear it from a trusted friend."