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Four hundred and forty days ago, I received my first dose of a vaccine to protect me from COVID-19. I was relieved. The retired doctor who administered my shot at a mass vaccination clinic told me that I was on the path to freedom. We then had a conversation about my four kids, a 6 year old, a 3 year old, and 11-month-old twins. I told her about how my wife and I had been trying to protect them from the virus, and that while I was excited to be vaccinated, it’d be a while until we had more freedom. I was hopeful, though. Trials had just started on children, and I had no doubt they’d be vaccinated by the end of 2021.

It’s been a much longer road than expected to get to FDA and CDC approval for a vaccine for children under the age of 5. The road has been so long that I’ve found myself advocating for my children with a group called “Protect Their Future” alongside parents across the country that are passionate about providing their children under 5 the same protections that everyone else has been afforded. I’ve spent the last 6 months advocating on social media, calling and meeting with the staff of and my governor, petitioning the FDA to act with urgency, and now, writing a blog post about why we’re planning to get our 3 daughters under 5 vaccinated this week.

Children are not supposed to die.

The effects of COVID-19 on children have been minimized over the last 2+ years. In that time, several hundred children under the age of 4 have died from COVID-19 with the majority of those being in the Delta and Omicron waves. Dr. Jeremy Faust recently argued that, since the 1990s, no other respiratory virus has been the main cause of death for 100+ children under the age of 17 in a single month in the United States. COVID-19 achieved that twice in the last year alone. Thousands more children under 5 have been hospitalized and countless more will likely be feeling the effects of Long Covid for years to come.

Children are not supposed to die from vaccine preventable diseases.

We do our best to prevent fatal car accidents with speed limits, car seats, and DUI laws. We do our best to prevent drownings with fences, floatation devices, and water safety classes. We do our best to prevent SIDS by putting infants to sleep on their backs and minimizing what we put in cribs. We do our best to prevent cancer by not exposing children to known carcinogens like cigarette smoke.

Death, the most severe outcome of COVID-19 infection, is not the only negative outcome. The denial around the potential long-term effects of COVID-19 is also troubling. Many viruses that are not as fatal as COVID-19, yet have proven to be problematic years later. Chickenpox links to shingles, HPV links to cancer, and measles links to rare neurodegeneration, just to name a few. To think that we’ll be done with COVID-19 once we get infections to a manageable level is, in my opinion, extremely short sighted. What we don’t know about the virus that causes COVID-19 is much greater than what we do know. A simple Google search will return numerous scholarly articles that discuss the impacts on the brain, lungs, liver, and heart. 

For these reasons, I am ecstatic to vaccinate my children under 5 against COVID-19–FINALLY!

The mRNA vaccines have gone through rigorous trials and, by all accounts, the benefits outweigh the risk of being repeatedly infected by the virus. The minimizers will try to divert your attention to the efficacy numbers against symptomatic infection which are, admittedly, much lower than when adults received their first vaccines 18 months ago. However, both vaccines created an immune response in trial participants that was comparable to that in the older age groups. So, while it might not protect my children from testing positive for COVID-19, I am confident that it will lessen the symptoms and certain that it will keep my family from dealing with the unimaginable pain of burying a child.

I’m sure many, upon the birth of your first child, brought them home from the hospital and thought, like me, “They didn’t even make me take a test before I left?!” There is no owner’s manual that comes with our children and there are no parenting books about surviving a pandemic. The fact that we have collectively made it this far deserves a standing ovation. I’m sure it hasn’t always been pretty. Extra screen time, more snacks, minimal patience. It has been the most grueling boot camp that I would wish on no one.  It has tested me as a father and a husband. The feeling of complete lack of control over what happens to our children has been humbling.  

These vaccines are the best precaution for our children and will allow parents to regain a modicum of control in protecting their young children from this terrible disease.

Andy is a father and vaccine advocate with Protect Their Future.

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