With this week’s news that Pfizer’s vaccination trials on kids 5-11 has shown positive results and that they will request FDA emergency approval soon, there is finally some cause for optimism for parents after a long year and a half. However, every time I tell people how excited I am to get them the shot, they ask if we are really going to do it right away. Here’s the thing, yeah, we are.
I want to unlock all of the things we used to enjoy as a family before the risk became too high. With our own vaccinations, the risk equation changed for us to the point where we are comfortable going out to eat every once in a blue moon, be a bit closer in social settings, and even taking a flight this fall on our own. It even changed some things we will do with the kids now, like outdoor dining, parties, and play dates. For us, the big risk we’re willing to take is having them in person at school, though with masking all day and fully vaccinated staff, it’s certainly less of a risk than it would otherwise be.
However, the risk balance hasn’t changed enough to feel comfortable taking them on a flight or eating inside for a prolonged meal. As much as we’d like to do those things, we personally don’t feel the risk of serious illness or long haul symptoms is worth it with them. But, when kids over 5 can get vaccinated, it means a significant change in that risk balance yet again. It’d be even better if they could add in kids two and up since the youngest won’t even be two until April and then we’d be fully covered. But with two of the three fully vaccinated, we’d be able to do a lot of the things we enjoyed so much before. Suddenly flights, indoor sporting events, dinning, and even movies are an option again. So yeah, we want that to happen as soon as possible.
But what about the risks of vaccinating kids at such a young age, people ask. From what I’ve seen and heard, those risks are orders of magnitude smaller than the risks with COVID exposure. While kids are overall less likely to develop severe symptoms, less likely still isn’t zero chance. And those odds are still far higher than any potential side effects, especially long term ones. Not only have the studies shown that long term effects are virtually non-existent, even the short term like fever, lethargy, and aches that adults experience with the vaccine are far less prevalent in children. It’s not like I had a rough time at all with either shot - essentially just a sore arm for like half a day - but knowing I likely won’t have two kindergartners laid out on the couch moaning makes the choice even easier.
To me, my job as a parent is to provide the most protection I reasonably can to my kids. That’s not to be confused with coddling them or being a helicopter parent, I believe they need to make mistakes and learn from them, but I have a duty to make allowances for safety. Just like I wouldn’t put them in a car without seat belts and child seats, I wouldn’t send them into public without a vaccine when one is available. Plus, it’s not just for them, it benefits and reduces risk for everyone around them. Their school mates, teachers, other staff, and family all deserve every layer of protection we can provide. There are strong reasons for both altruistic and selfish motivations.
I also believe there is ample research and science that’s gone into testing the safety and efficacy of the vaccines, especially for kids. Not only is there a huge sample of data from all the adults and teenagers who received it, the studies and trials conducted for kids have been longer and more extensive than those conducted even for adults. The FDA insisted on extra data for these trials, and to me, it’s sufficient to show the effectiveness and safety of them and we’ll be lining up on day one of availability for us.
I’m also not delusional that after our family is vaccinated that we’ll just be able to go back completely to pre-pandemic days. Unfortunately since too little of the population got vaccinated soon enough or at all to effectively eradicate the virus, and let variants take over and continue to propagate, we won’t ever go fully back. Masks are probably here to stay, at least in indoor settings with medium and larger groups, like school. On public transportation, for indoor dinning, at sporting events, and certainly on planes, we’ll almost certainly be masking up to provide an extra layer of protection for quite a while. However, that also means we’ll be able to go on planes in the first place, so I’m more than happy to make the sacrifice. If it means the youngest can finally get to his first international location or outside of the East Coast, we’ll wear full hazmat suits for hours. By this age, his brothers had been north of the Arctic circle in Norway, to Spain, and across the country. It’s past time for him to start catching up.
When they are approved and our kids are eligible, we’ll be refreshing pharmacy websites again for appointments. I want to grab back some feeling of safety and control for our family, regaining at least part of what the virus and a non-trivial portion of the population took from us. I want to be able to stop worrying about every sniffle and cough one of the kids come home with. I want to go in museums again without feeling near crippling anxiety about being within six feet of strangers. I want to be able to take them to a Devils game to inevitably be disappointed in person. I want to hop on a plane and take them somewhere new to expand their horizons and find love in new and diverse experiences again. So sign us up for the first shots. We’re ready.