COVID-19 vaccination for children aged five to 11 is expected within days, following the FDA’s emergency use authorization on Friday. Many parents are wildly cheering that news, counting the days until it becomes a reality. But, as with so many times during the coronavirus pandemic when the voices of people who aren’t doing the right thing for public health are elevated above those who are, the media won’t give you so many chances to hear from parents who are ready and waiting to protect their children, their families, and their communities.
And sure, lots of people are hesitating to get their kids vaccinated—just as too many adults have hesitated to get themselves vaccinated. But why not report on the people who are eager to do the right thing? Why not elevate their voices? Instead, we watch again and again as the small proportion of anti-maskers get more coverage than the majority of people who support public health measures, as the tiny percentage of people willing to leave their jobs rather than be vaccinated get widespread coverage. But parents counting the days until their kids can be vaccinated against COVID-19 just as they’ve been vaccinated against measles and chickenpox and tetanus and diphtheria and pertussis and rotavirus and polio and more? For some reason, we’re not so interesting to the media.
Jean-Pierre Jacquet is a New York educator with four children—a seven-year-old and five-year-old triplets. His wife is an OB/GYN who has had patients with COVID-19, but, he says, they were lucky—especially early on in the pandemic—that she had the personal protective equipment she needed.
Speaking about what changes his family will make once the kids are vaccinated, Jacquet said that, for instance, his sister and her children were visiting: “We spent the weekend hanging out with each other, and we did a lot outside, but we’re masked indoors. When we’re eating, we’re eating in different rooms.” With vaccination, they can relax some of those restrictions. Similarly, “We’re at the age where we’d love to put them in different activities, not because they’re going to become a premier soccer player, but just for running around outside,” but with inconsistent safety protocols across organizations, they’ve waited.
For the 2020-2021 school year, the school where Jacquet works and his children are students adopted a hybrid model, and two of children have had to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposures. That experience informs another of the key reasons he looks forward to having them vaccinated. “Particularly because we have four kids, probably if they got COVID it would be relatively mild,” he says. “But if it ran through four kids, that would be like a month of our lives. That’s like a month of them being out of school. So for us, we’ve just been like, ‘We’re going to be really careful, and we’re going to keep the continuity of our work schedule and the kids’ school schedules.’”
One mother of two living in a Georgia county where less than 40% of residents have had one dose of COVID-19 vaccine said she waited until school started to vaccinate her 12-year-old. But now, her 11-year-old “is ASKING why she can’t get it. She wants it. As soon as it’s available for her, I will get it. If she feels informed enough at 11 to ask for it, there’s no way I will deny her when the rest of us in the house are vaccinated.” Her daughter doesn’t want to be quarantined and miss school—“Being at school is very important to her”—and they will be more able to be more comfortable visiting with elderly and at-risk family members once she’s vaccinated.
Highlighting the importance of advice from trusted figures, the mother added: “My pediatrician has also vaccinated her own children, and I have confidence in her as a mother.”
Here are some answers I got on Facebook to the simple invitation:
“Parent friends who are looking forward to having your 5-11s vaccinated and who don’t mind being quoted on the public internets (whether under your whole name or just first name or whatever), please tell me your thoughts/feelings/plans.”
A mother of two:
“As the parent of a high risk 5-11 kid living in Mississippi, I can’t wait to have her get a vaccine. Two years of dread over the potential consequences of joining in for ordinary kid activities is more than long enough!”
A mother of three:
“We have delayed a necessary move to a state where masking isn’t required in schools, waiting to move until our eight-year-olds can be vaccinated. We’re beyond relieved that it’s going to happen soon—couldn’t have put it off much longer.”
A father of two children under five:
“We can’t wait. It will relieve so much stress and make us feel comfortable doing really basic things that used to be treasured parts of our routine, like Charlie doing the grocery shopping with me.”
A mother in Rhode Island:
“We will be the first in line! Especially with four kids at three different schools, and our two foster children with weekly visitation with birth families. We can’t wait to mitigate the risk and inconvenience our family brings to the community every single time there is a potential exposure.”
Neil Sroka, the communications director at PL+US:
“Our family is literally counting the days until our soon-to-be five-year-old can get her shot. Aside from her toddler cousin, she’s the only one in the family who isn’t vaccinated yet. While occasionally my wife and I have gone out to eat inside a restaurant and taken a couple of necessary business trips since March 2020, it’ll finally feel like we can embrace a new, better normal once she’s vaccinated. We’ll obviously continue to follow the precautions suggested by the CDC in the months ahead (masking indoors, etc.), but I’m looking forward to the moment we know she’s got the best protection available from a disease that has killed millions, including thousands of kids, around the world. While things have gotten better, especially since the early, confusingly scary days of the pandemic, with her vaccinated, I think we’ll finally feel like we can fully exhale.”
A father of one:
“I will be booking an appointment the second one is available. We’ve had scares where people close to my son have caught it and we had to get tested several times. And the thought of him not only being sick but losing in person school again is terrifying. This vaccine hesitancy/resistance is insane and nothing will be normal again until everyone grows up and takes responsibility.”
A father in New Jersey said that while “I can’t wait,” his seven-year-old is “less enthusiastic since he is annoyed by the thought of having a sore arm for multiple days.” But “I asked him if he wanted friends over inside without masks and sleepovers and parties. And what about getting to take your mask off at school? He was still not happy at the thought of a sore arm, but he did agree that all those things together MIGHT be worth it.” The father added, “I am also in favor of anything that lessens the need for quarantines. Those have played havoc with my work productivity and mental health.”
A father of two:
“Can’t wait! Still have an infant in daycare but reducing the likelihood and intensity of our largest individual vector (preschool) means more time with vulnerable family and hopefully relaxed masking for the kids once it’s safer.”
The mother of a four-year-old in Boston, looking forward to her child’s birthday:
“January cannot come soon enough.”
Many parents on Twitter also weighed in:
Pro-vaccine parents are more than willing to talk. If only the media was interested in hearing from them.
Republished with permission from Daily Kos.