Parents of young children react to CDC’s new COVID vaccine recommendations
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Photo by RedBoy [Matt] via Flickr at www.flickr.com/photos/72507591@N00/7737220200
RedBoy [Matt] at www.flickr.com/photos/72507591@N00/7737220200
COVID-19Parents React

Parents of young children react to CDC’s new COVID vaccine recommendations

A June 18 announcement made nearly 20 million U.S. children eligible to receive vaccination against COVID-19. But what do parents think?

Main image by RedBoy [Matt] at www.flickr.com/photos/72507591@N00/7737220200

Brittney and Tzvi Friedman are ecstatic about their 3-year-old son’s upcoming visit to the doctor. Thanks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s June 18 recommendation that all Americans 6 months and older get vaccinated, the Friedman’s son — and nearly 20 million children — is now eligible to receive a long-awaited jab.

After two years, it’s exciting there's a vaccine that can protect not only children but “the ones they come in contact with every day,” Tzvi Friedman said.

Brittney Friedman agreed and said she was so elated about the CDC’s announcement that she asked her family’s pediatrician on June 20, during an annual checkup, if the shot could be administered that day.

“Unfortunately, they didn’t have any doses and said to come back next week,” she said.

Greenfield resident Mo Harris understands the Friedmans’ enthusiasm. Harris has a 4-year-old son she’s hoping to get vaccinated “as soon as possible.”

“I have been waiting for it, anticipating it,” Harris said. “I’m very excited that it will be available.”

Mo Harris and her son. Photo courtesy of Mo Harris

Shortly after the CDC’s announcement, Harris began searching for places where her son could get the vaccine — she even asked the school nurse for any leads.

“The news in Pittsburgh doesn’t seem to be sharing all that information yet, so I called the pediatrician and they said they’ll be receiving both Pfizer and Moderna doses in the next day or two,” Harris said.

Once those doses are in, Harris plans to get her son vaccinated “immediately,” she said. “A week from today we are going to Los Angeles to visit family, and my hope is to have my child vaccinated before we leave.

We’ve had other trips, but with the vaccine now available I want to do it and not wait.”

Aspinwall residents Joshua and Diana Avart are also eager to get their toddler vaccinated as Diana is in her ninth month of pregnancy.

“Anything we can do to protect our newborn in the next couple weeks we’ll do,” she said.

Her husband agreed, noting that their 2-year-old son’s upcoming vaccination should not only help him but the many people he interacts with at day care.

In addition to the protection the shot provides, another significant thing, the Avarts noted, is that it will change the “time frame” for dealing with potential exposures or positive tests.

According to the CDC, someone who isn’t up-to-date on their vaccinations should quarantine for at least five days after exposure to COVID-19. Conversely, someone who is current with their vaccinations needn’t quarantine or stay home unless they develop symptoms.

Harris said she understands that the vaccine isn’t a total “knockout,” and that plenty of people still test positive post-vaccination. Even so, Harris follows the case counts and said “people were sick before the vaccines and now there are fewer hospitalizations.”

A December article in Clinical Infectious Diseases, a biweekly peer-reviewed medical journal published by Oxford University Press, noted that “vaccination can have a substantial impact on mitigating COVID-19 outbreaks, even with limited protection against infection.”

In March, The Lancet, a weekly peer-reviewed general medical journal, published a report that COVID-19 vaccines reduce hospitalization and death in people who previously had the illness before immunization.

The Avart family. Photo courtesy of Joshua Avart

Squirrel Hill resident Rebecca Pollack said she’s followed COVID-related news, but that her enthusiasm about vaccine eligibility has waned.

“I don’t know if I am in as much of a rush as I was the first time,” she said.

When her 7-year-old was finally allowed to get a vaccine last year, Pollack immediately put her son on a waiting list.

COVID was still “scary,” back then, she said. Now, “I’m just a little bit more ambivalent.”

Bakery Square resident Emily Friedman-Novak expressed a similar sentiment, saying, “There was a point where I was waiting for this with bated breath but that point has passed.”

Three of four of Friedman-Novak’s children are already vaccinated and boosted, but the decision to immunize was “mostly due to school requirements,” she said. “I think that took a lot of the guesswork out of it … either they could go to school and be vaccinated or not get to go to school.”

Friedman-Novak said she’s making a similar calculation when it comes to her 3-year-old son: “To say that I’m not worried about the vaccine, I am, but I am more worried about him going to school.”

According to the San Francisco-based Kaiser Family Foundation, 11% of parents of children under age 5 said they will vaccinate their child only if required; 18% of parents said they’re “eager to vaccinate their child and say they will do so right away once a COVID-19 vaccine is authorized for their age group.” Thirty-eight percent of parents would “wait and see” before getting their young child vaccinated, and 27% said they would “definitely not” get their child under 5 vaccinated for COVID-19.

Pollack isn’t sure why her attitude has shifted since the start of the pandemic.

She said it may be due to her family testing positive for COVID-19 after getting vaccinated, or that people who get the virus don’t seem to become as sick as they once did.

The Squirrel Hill resident still supports vaccinating her 4-year-old and 1-year-old, but she’s just not in a rush: “Ultimately, I’ll do whatever my pediatrician says for both of them.”

Jonathan Weinkle, a physician at the Squirrel Hill Health Center, has fielded numerous questions regarding COVID-19 since the pandemic began.

Weinkle told the Chronicle on June 21 that after such a long period he was happy to announce that both the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines are “in transit as we speak.”

Squirrel Hill Health Center patients can receive those vaccines in the coming days, and the Center will also be holding a community-wide clinic on July 8 at the Jewish Community Center in Squirrel Hill between 3 and 6 p.m.

Weinkle said the clinic will have vaccines not only for children under the age of 5 but for “school-age children, teenagers and adults as well.”

Those seeking information about the clinic can visit squirrelhillhealthcenter.org. PJC

Adam Reinherz can be reached at areinherz@pittsburghjewishchronicle.org.

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