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Vaccination Hesitation—Good Parenting

Dear Dr. Debbie,

Another mom and I met in an exercise class when we were first pregnant 10 years ago. Our combined 5 kids played together often, including sleepovers, until the pandemic. The older ones sometimes visit on Zoom but that’s about it. I was hoping the vaccine rollout was getting us closer to being able to go back to life as we knew it and was shocked to hear that my friend is wavering about getting her vaccine.

Her husband got his already. My husband and I are halfway vaxxed.  We have told the kids that this is helping to slow the spread of the virus so it will be safe to go back to school and to have friends over.

I feel like I’m letting my kids down if I can’t get this mom to participate in getting vaccinated against Covid-19.

My Kids Need Friends

Dear MKNF,

The pandemic has turned our lives upside down. It will continue to affect our social interactions until the infection rates drop significantly more than they have. It’s going to take a group effort.

Why I’m Getting Vaccinated

Vaccinations are thankfully slowing the spread of the coronavirus which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports has claimed over 581,000 lives in the U.S. The virus has infected at least 32,356,000 people in our country. Older adults and anyone with with certain underlying health problems are at higher risk for more severe symptoms . The numbers of children infected have been much less than adults. They generally experience less severe symptoms including no symptoms at all. Therein lies part of the problem. Anyone, child or adult, even someone who doesn’t appear to be sick, could carry the virus to a vulnerable person who will get sick and may die.

School closures have been credited with effectively slowing the spread of this dastardly disease. As more people get vaccinated, the safer it is for school and other indoor social activities to resume. However, epidemiologists stress that at least 50%, and maybe as much as 80%, of the entire U.S. population (counting children) needs to be immune for the virus to die out. This is a “novel” coronavirus, that is, a previously unknown and unstudied disease. This means that the level needed for herd immunity to stop the virus from spreading. That is, the percent of the population having antibodies, either from having survived the virus or from getting a vaccination, will be known only when we get there.

Why Aren’t You?

Older adults and others at higher risk were the first to be vaccinated. Now that anyone ages 16 and up has ready access, (and soon, ages 12 and up), the enthusiasm for vaccines seems to have waned. One reason is that many individuals may not have identified Covid-19 as a personal threat since they weren’t “high risk” and maybe they hadn’t witnessed or known of a loved one suffering from it. Getting a vaccine may seem more of an inconvenience than a life or death priority. If this is the case for your friend, she’s not making the connection between transmitting a disease and dying from a disease. She may not die from Covid-19, but if she’s unvaccinated, she could be responsible for a chain of transmission that results in someone else’s death.

Misinformation

Misinformation and fear about a new vaccine may be holding back your friend. Some people are asking how it’s possible for a safe and effective vaccine to have been created in so short a period of time. If this is your friend’s concern, refer her to assurances from the National Institute of Health that decades of research, including vaccine programs for flu, HIV, SARS and MERS, paved the way for creating the response to the novel coronavirus. It may be a new virus, but it is in a family of viruses that have been around for a while.

A busy mom may not be aware just how easy it is to get a vaccination. Currently there are reports of doses and appointments going unused. Walk-ins are available at some vaccine locations. Help your friend identify the place and time that will work for her. Does she faint at the sight of a needle? If you are comfortable with the idea, offer to be her support buddy as you have been for your children when they had inoculations. You can probably find a location that’s less than a fifteen-minute car ride away. Keep your masks on and windows cracked if you ride together. Review what to expect after her shots  so she can prepare ahead with over-the-counter relief and pre-cooked meals for the family as part of up to two days’ recuperation. Her husband should sympathize with helping out since he’s already been through his own recovery. She’s been through childbirth, right?!?

Information, a little planning, trust, and a touch of bravery can help your friend join the world-wide effort to conquer Covid-19. A shot or two in the arm is not too much to ask to get your children playing together again.

Dr. Debbie

Deborah Wood, Ph.D. is a child development specialist www.drdebbiewood.com and founding director of Chesapeake Children’s Museum www.theccm.org.

Read more of Dr. Wood’s Good Parenting columns by clicking here.

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