This is part of a continuing series on COVID-19, vaccinations, and the beliefs, concerns and suspicions surrounding it.
For San Fernando mom Lindsey Ureña, there was no hesitation. She has already set up an appointment to get her soon-to-be 2-year-old son Sebastian vaccinated.
“I believe in science,” Ureña said. “He’s had all of his other vaccinations, and he’ll have this one too.
“Sebastian is a ‘pandemic baby,’ born on July 5, 2020. We’ve been waiting for this vaccine to be available for Sebastian so that he could be protected,” she said.
Ureña said her sister-in-law, who worked with COVID-19 patients in an ICU, encouraged their entire family to be vaccinated from grandparents on down.
“My grandmother told me stories about polio and people were getting sick — paralyzed — and put in iron lungs. I don’t want my son to be hospitalized or have the possibility of death. I want my son to have a layer of protection in case he gets COVID,” Ureña said.
She reflected on how hard it was to be pregnant during the height of the pandemic. Her job working as an esthetician was shut down, and she had to go to her medical appointments alone.
She delivered her son at Holy Cross, and they allowed her husband to be there, but once he was there he couldn’t leave.
“I want this world to heal — 2020 was full of death. I’m all for vaccines. I know they work,” she said.
Ureña’s plan to vaccinate her toddler is music to the ears of health care providers who view “vaccine hesitancy” as a public health concern.
“Parents should start thinking of COVID-19 as a vaccine-preventable illness. Just as with other vaccines, such as for meningitis or whooping cough, they should think of the COVID-19 vaccine as something that can protect their child,” said Dr. Priya Soni, assistant professor of Pediatric Infectious Disease at Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s.
Ureña said she’s aware of parents who are opposed to vaccinating their children, and she would like to have a discussion with them. But she also acknowledged that it may not be positive, with everyone feeling strong in their positions.
“I don’t need to get stressed, I have a child to raise,” she said.
Ureña was one of our readers who responded to a question posted on the San Fernando Valley Sun/el Sol’s Facebook page, asking parents now that a vaccine is available for children starting at 6 months old, if they will vaccinate their babies.
Unlike Ureña, most others said they don’t support vaccinating their children of any age.
Jessica Aguirre wrote, “Nope, I don’t want any kids to be guinea pigs, but I for sure ain’t volunteering mine to be.”
Steven Huyuh responded: “Nope. Got a healthy kid and with the current state of COVID, it doesn’t affect my healthy kid. My kid already got it in January and recovered and was just fine and healthy now. No one is immune-compromised in my family. I’m not anti-vaccine, I just currently feel at this stage it’s not needed.”
Miguel Garcia posted: “Medical research shows that death from COVID-19 among infants is significantly lower than pretty much the rest of the population. No need to get children jabbed. COVID is here forever, kids develop natural immunity to it far better than adults. No jab will ever remove COVID, it has become the ‘new’ flu. It is and has become endemic, stop with the stupid irrational fear of it. Take the masks off and live your life,” he wrote.
Garcia also told others not to “bother commenting…I will not respond, in fact I won’t even read them, don’t waste your time.”
Health care providers and public health agencies have been outreaching to the public to dispel common “myths,” about the vaccine.
“Although it’s true that many children have already been exposed to COVID-19, these vaccines help prevent children from getting severely ill and from developing long-term complications due to the virus, including death,” Soni said. “This virus is far more dangerous and unpredictable than the flu.”
The doctor said that children who were previously healthy after getting COVID-19 developed severe lung infections, collapsed lungs, new-onset seizure disorders, long-haul COVID or MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children). Some children have also developed post-COVID complications like bacterial meningitis.
None of these children, she said, were previously vaccinated.
During the Omicron surge in late December and January, children ages 4 and under were hospitalized at five times the rate than during the peak with the Delta variant. Infection with earlier variants might not protect against current ones, and every four to six months we are seeing a new variant emerge.
“This virus is clearly not done impacting our children,” Soni explained.
For some parents, when they hear that the “benefits outweigh the risks,” that adage doesn’t ring true for them. They have legitimate health concerns that are causing them to pause.
“I honestly don’t know. I was for the vaccine, but became conflicted with it after I ended up getting myocarditis due to the vaccine,” said Mayra Juarez.
“I still have issues with it actually. I’m just worried about what can happen to them as a result. I was only 27 when I was first diagnosed and on the verge of getting a heart attack. I don’t know. I’m conflicted. I don’t think I will [vaccinate my children].”
Jason and Patricia, parents of 18-month-old Sierra, said they don’t need to think about it — they aren’t vaccinating their baby. While they both are currently preparing for careers in the health field — Patricia is a nursing student and Jason is often in hospitals for the health program he’s enrolled in — for them, when asked if they’ll be vaccinating Sierra, “It’s a flat ‘No’”.
Despite his plans to have a career in health, Jason refers to the latest vaccine for babies and the vaccine as “experimental.” He said that although he’s vaccinated, he “doesn’t know what will happen years from now to my health because I was vaccinated,” and he doesn’t want to take that same risk for his baby.
“She can’t talk and express what she’s feeling,” he said.
He and Patricia were vaccinated because they were required to be if they wanted to continue studying in a hospital environment. Also at the heart of his reluctance is that Jason’s grandfather developed a very rare disorder — Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) after getting a flu vaccine — and he now suffers from long term nerve damage, which is causing Jason to hesitate.
The “COVID-19 vaccines have been studied more than any other vaccine in history,” Soni maintains. “The FDA has conducted a thorough analysis of the data submitted by the vaccine companies for this age group, and held the results to the same safety and effectiveness standards as all other types of routine pediatric vaccines in the United States.
“More than 10.1 million children ages 5 to 11 have received at least one dose of this vaccine as of June 15, 2022. In studies of the vaccine in the younger age groups, no deaths were reported in any trial participants, and serious adverse events were extremely rare,” she said.
In addition, Soni said, a separate, independent committee called the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices COVID-19 vaccine work group, which includes providers and specialists who provide guidance to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “has analyzed the data and concluded unanimously that the vaccines should be authorized for this age group.”
“I urge parents to consider timing and availability as they make their decision. Because the Moderna vaccine is a two-dose series given 28-days apart, it may be more favorable for parents who have summer vacations planned and want their child to be protected with the full series before travel,” Soni recommended.
“Whatever the concerns parents have they should discuss them with their children’s pediatrician.”