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Opinion | Finally, COVID relief for parents of young children

parents with three small kids
Jeannette Conklin Sharp, shown here with her family, is a resident of Canton, and mom to three young boys, ages 1, 3 and 6. (Courtesy photo)

When the COVID-19 vaccine for children under age 5 was finally authorized, I let out a sigh of relief that I am confident I have been holding in for more than two years. I excitedly reached out to our pediatrician to see how soon my youngest sons, Colin, 3, and Owen, 1, could receive their first dose.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) now recommends providers begin vaccinating children 6 months through 4 years of age, following a vote mid-June by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) supporting that recommendation. The recommendation follows authorization of the vaccine for this age group by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Although many children with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, some children can get severely ill and require hospitalization. And there are the economic effects as well. Colin and Owen’s unvaccinated status has meant longer quarantine times from daycare, causing my husband and I to miss work. My family is fortunate to have the resources and flexibility to adjust, but other families have not been so lucky. We have maintained levels of caution that much of society has been able to move away from since becoming vaccinated in late 2020 or throughout 2021 — to keep our young boys safe, but also as a duty to our community.

The FDA has determined that both the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective for children ages 6 months through 4 years. In clinical trials, both vaccines were effective at protecting children from serious illness or hospitalization, similar to the level of protection it provides in adults.

Our firstborn child, Brett, who is 6 years old, was more aware than his younger brothers of how life has changed because of the pandemic. He understood what the vaccine meant for the near future – the return of play dates, activities and outings. Brett was so excited that he even played “vaccine clinic” in the weeks leading up to and after receiving his vaccinations. He was thrilled to be eligible for a booster vaccine like mom and dad. I am hoping he can share his positivity with his younger, less-aware brothers.

Because they are less aware, Colin and Owen don’t know anything different than life in a pandemic. I am excited to introduce them to the enriching activities Brett enjoyed at their key developmental ages: trips to the Ann Arbor Hands-on Museum, story time at our public library, Michigan State University sporting events and even a trip to Disney World are all ahead for my vaccinated toddlers.

Owen’s arrival during the pandemic was a different experience than when his brothers were born. Of course, it brought us such joy, but there was also added stress, guilt, fear and frustration. The greatest source of comfort as we tried to navigate this were the incredible pediatricians and pediatric nurse practitioners who treated my boys with such care. We continue to trust them, their education and expertise to evaluate the facts and protect my children from COVID-19 and other preventable, potentially deadly diseases. We thank them for their diligence and partnership as we move into this next stage of the pandemic, finally bringing our family into what we remember as normal.

The availability of this vaccine marks a return to a world I have missed, and a new world that my youngest sons have never known. The peace of mind that a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine brings our family is more than enough, but the added benefit of knowing we are protecting those around us is icing on the cake.

As a parent, I recognize that the decision to vaccinate is a highly personal one. I turn to credible sources like IVaccinate.org and Michigan.gov/KidsCOVIDvaccine for answers to questions because I believe that having questions about the medical decisions I make for my children and seeking accurate information is part of my job as a parent.

So here’s to the families like mine that are enjoying what I’m sure feels like the best summer ever thanks to this vaccine, and the incredible researchers and medical professionals who made it possible.

Bridge welcomes guest columns from a diverse range of people on issues relating to Michigan and its future. The views and assertions of these writers do not necessarily reflect those of Bridge or The Center for Michigan. Bridge does not endorse any individual guest commentary submission. If you are interested in submitting a guest commentary, please contact Ron French. Click here for details and submission guidelines.

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