Hawkins’ son is set for his initial shot this week at Trent Elementary. “After everything that has been presented by the FDA and CDC, it’s evident that the vaccine is legitimate, safe and effective,” Hawkins said. “There’s no debate. I’m thrilled that he can get the vaccine. I’ll worry less.” Nearly 20 months after the pandemic altered our lives, prepubescents can receive the vaccine. The Pfizer-BionTech COVID-19 vaccine is now available for children ages 5 to 11. The Washington State Department of Health reviewed data that found the vaccine to be safe and more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in younger children.
“As a father and as a physician, I have been eagerly awaiting the day I can get my children vaccinated,” state Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH said. “There are nearly 680,000 kids ages 5 to 11 in Washington. Vaccinating this younger age group will help protect them, keep students in the classroom and bring us one step closer to ending this pandemic.” No matter what some folks think, the pandemic is not over. According to the CDC, COVID-19 cases across the country in children from 5 to 11 make up nearly 40% of all cases in adolescents 18 and younger.
While it’s true children often have more mild cases of COVID-19 compared to adults, they can become very sick and may require hospitalization, intensive care or a ventilator to help them breathe. According to the CDC, more than 650 children younger than 18 have died of COVID-19. With a vaccine available for those younger than 12, we have no choice. Don’t hesitate. Vaccinate. When my daughter Jane turned 12 last summer, she received her initial injection just hours after blowing out the candles on her birthday cake. The timing was perfect for her. “I don’t have to miss out on school sports or being with my friends,” Jane said.
There are no guarantees with the vaccine. Two fully vaccinated friends were stricken with COVID-19. One pal was bed-ridden for a few days, but both are fine. Who knows how bad it could have been if they failed to receive the vaccine? The numbers don’t lie. The vaccine has saved countless lives. I understand a parent doing their due diligence when it comes to the vaccine. It was before my time, but I couldn’t help but look back to when the polio vaccine was introduced. Why did Americans not question Dr. Jonas Salk’s discovery?
Apparently back in 1955, many Americans had a deep respect for science. “If you had to pick a moment as the high point of respect for scientific discovery, it would have been then,” medical historian David M. Oshinsky wrote in his book “Polio: An American Story.” “After World War 2, you had antibiotics rolling off the production line for the first time. People believed infectious disease was (being) conquered. And then this amazing vaccine is announced. People couldn’t get it fast enough.”
Much has changed over the last 65 years. Skepticism and reluctance reign. That’s unfortunate since COVID-19 vaccines have undergone the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history. The vaccine’s safety was studied in approximately 3,100 children who received the vaccine and have had no serious side effects. Research shows COVID-19 vaccines offer better protection than natural immunity alone and that vaccines, even after prior infection, help prevent reinfection. Families who are uncertain should visit DOH’s webpage vaccinatewa.org/kids for information about vaccines and kids and/or to talk to their child’s health care provider.
Due to the stage’s initial limited pediatric vaccine supply of roughly 315,000 doses, during the first couple of weeks, families may need to reach out to more than one provider to find vaccines for their children. Over time, supply will increase, and there will be enough vaccine for all eligible children. Don’t leave your kids hanging. Make an appointment to vaccinate for your family and society. Our children and our lives matter, so please do the right thing.