If Alejandra Castaneda had her way, her daughter Violet would have been vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as possible.
Denver’s mother said she worries about the 11-year-old missing school if Violet becomes ill. She also wants to take her child to see their out-of-state family.
But Castaneda’s ex-husband, Greg Benchwick, wasn’t initially sure whether he wanted his daughter to be vaccinated immediately. He said he wants more evidence that the shots won’t cause serious and permanent side effects in children his age.
“It’s a really difficult question for parents,” said Denver resident Benchwick, the decision now facing families with young children.
Colorado began vaccinating children ages 5 to 11 against the coronavirus on Wednesday after the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stepped up what President Joe Biden called “a turning point in our fight against COVID-19.”
But as the state begins its campaign to give the shots to 479,895 Coloredans in that age group, it cautions parents against giving their consent.
Many parents who spoke to The Denver Post, such as Castaneda, watch the arrival of vaccines for young children with anticipation, worrying about their children getting sick and transmission of the virus in in-person learning in schools. Spent months doing it.
Other parents are quite unwilling to vaccinate their children over concerns about potential long-term side effects. Those parents may not necessarily reject COVID-19 vaccines outright and may be vaccinated themselves.
The parental hesitation presents a challenge to Colorado’s public health officials’ goal of vaccinating at least half of children aged 5 to 11 by the end of January.
“I’m not surprised,” said Dr. Matthew Daly, a pediatrician and senior investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Institute for Health Research, of the hesitation. “Parents – they always want to do what’s best for the child. They may be over-risky about their child.”
Colorado public health and medical experts said Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot – the only vaccine approved for use in young children – is safe for people ages 5 to 11.
Dr. Lalit Bajaj, pediatric emergency medicine physician at Children’s Hospital Colorado, “the investigation of these vaccines by our regulatory agency is quite thorough.” “If we don’t think it’s safe and the benefits don’t outweigh the risks we won’t put it there. There’s a lot of hope for optimism.”
The arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine for young children comes at a critical time in the pandemic in Colorado when cases are rising as they did a year ago and state officials are concerned that the coming holidays and flu season are hitting hospitals. further pressure, which he warned could reach capacity by the end of the month.
The latest surge in cases began this summer when children returned to school, leading to a surge in infections among teens. According to the state Department of Health, children continue to make up a substantial portion of COVID-19 cases in Colorado.
“I have a lot of feelings about the vaccine,” said 8-year-old Noah Carey, who will get his first shot later this month. “A lot of unpleasant feelings… scared to get it because I need a needle. do not like it. But injecting it into my system is the only way.”
According to medical experts, children are less likely to experience severe cases of COVID-19, which may lead to hospitalization, but the risk from the disease exists. Young children may be more vulnerable to developing a rare but potentially fatal condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C, following a coronavirus infection. According to the CDC, the condition can cause inflammation in the heart, lungs, kidneys and other organs.
Babies can also develop what is known to be long-lasting, with symptoms and after-effects that can persist for weeks or months.
Additionally, according to officials with the Colorado Department of Public Health and the Environment, children can spread the virus to other people, including those at high risk for complications.
“Getting our kids vaccinated now is one of the most important things we can all do before gathering with our families over the holidays,” state epidemiologist Dr. Rachel Hurley said in a statement Tuesday after the CDC approved the shots. Huh.”
Parents worried about vaccine side effects
Brittany Montoya of Mansa said she was apprehensive before receiving two shots of Moderna’s vaccine in the spring. Still, she heard that Conejos County officials had extra doses that were going to go to waste and decided that “if they’re going to test it on someone, they can test it on me,” she said. .
But Montoya, 35, said he didn’t like the mobile clinic where he got his shots. She said she thought it would be safer to get vaccinated at the family doctor’s office where physicians and nurses are more familiar with a patient’s medical history and can make a more informed decision about whether a person should get the shot.
“I can’t do that to my kids,” she said of taking them to a mobile clinic. “They’re used to their doctor.”
Therefore, Montoya, who has five children between the ages of 2 and 13, remains undecided about getting her four eligible children vaccinated, saying she will consult with her husband before the family doctor makes a final decision. Will wait till you get the dose.
28 survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, a third of American parents plan to wait and see how well the COVID-19 vaccine works before vaccinating their young child.
Another 30% of parents said they would not vaccinate their 5 to 11-year-olds at all, while 27% of parents said they would “immediately” get their young child vaccinated, according to the survey. According.
Parents surveyed cited safety as one of the major reasons why they are still unsure about vaccines for their child.
Benchwick, 11-year-old Violet’s father, said he is concerned that the size of the Pfizer vaccine trial, which studied the shot’s safety in nearly 3,100 young children, was not large enough to catch side effects. He said he would prefer to wait until the age group is given two million shots to see how they work, he said.
Daly, a pediatrician at Kaiser Permanente, said the vaccine study may seem small, but it is actually larger than usual for such a young age group.
Montoya said he’s also concerned about potential side effects, especially because high blood pressure and diabetes run in his family. He is particularly concerned about the potential risk of myocarditis, a condition that inflames the heart and has been reported in some older patients after receiving vaccination.
Children’s Hospital physicians Daly and Bajaj said young children are at a higher risk of developing myocarditis after a COVID infection than after a vaccine.
“What we are finding is natural COVID in children, which can cause serious illness, especially heart disease,” Bajaj said. “Anything related to a vaccine is very rare and even if it does happen it is very mild.”
A Pfizer vaccine study in children ages 5 to 11 found that the age group was less likely to experience common immediate but temporary vaccine side effects — such as fever, fatigue, and headache — than teens or young adults. .
The difference may be because children’s doses are lower, said Bajaj, who served as executive sponsor of the trial at the Children’s Hospital testing Pfizer’s vaccine in young children.
The vaccine available for children ages 5 to 11 still includes two shots, three weeks apart, but in lower doses. According to the US Food and Drug Administration, the age group is given 10 micrograms instead of the 30 micrograms that people 12 years of age and older get.
Montoya said he is not against vaccines. She said her children have received this year’s flu shot, among others, and she encourages adults to get vaccinated against the coronavirus, but she wants more time to decide whether to vaccinate their children because They are homeschooled and their risk is low.
“I trust the science, I do,” Montoya said, “I just want to make sure that what they’re giving them is going to protect them and not do anything else.”
“I hope everyone out there gets their vaccine”
Other parents, including 8-year-old Noah’s mother, have already booked appointments to get their children vaccinated. Westminster’s Vanessa Vargas had reserved a slot on 14 November. Noah to get his first injection.
Once Noah is vaccinated, he wants to go to the public library and Disneyland, he said.
“I hope everyone out there gets their vaccine too,” he said. “And I wish everyone much happiness in these dark times and I am very sorry for those who have been caught and died by this virus.”
Paul McPherson of Westminster is also comfortable getting his 9-year-old daughter vaccinated. He said that his father and aunt were given polio vaccines by Dr. Jonas Salk, who developed one of the world’s first successful polio vaccines.
“I believe in the system,” McPherson said.
Over the past few days, Benchwick and Castaneda continued to talk about their differences, and eventually struck a deal, deciding to vaccinate Violet at their upcoming annual checkup this month.
“I still think the right thing is waiting,” Benchwick said. “But I saw how important it was to (Castaneda) and we decided to settle. That’s what you have to do when you’re co-parenting.”