On June 18, parents and caregivers in the United States got the wonderful and long-awaited news of the FDA authorization and CDC recommendation of the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 6 months to 5 years old.
Our family rejoiced knowing that our nearly 3-year-old son Lincoln and 6-month-old daughter Imogene would finally, finally be protected against this awful virus that has devastated the lives of so many.
As a pastor I’ve done funerals for people who would still be alive except for COVID-19, and my husband Kyle, a hospital pharmacist, has seen many patients over the past two years — the majority unvaccinated — struggle with this disease, fight for their lives, and tragically, a significant number not survive.
The vaccine has been a game changer and a literal life saver. The news that our kids could finally get vaccinated felt like we could breathe again.
Even as this announcement was cheered by so many, there are still some who have questions about the vaccine or are hesitant about their kids getting it. That’s why we want to share how we’ve come to the decision to vaccinate our kids against COVID-19 and why we strongly encourage others to make the same choice.
There are a lot of rumors out there about supposed side effects and motivations behind those who advocate for vaccines. Every time we see people sharing these dangerous lies on social media or in conversation, we are horrified by how casually people seem to spread misinformation that could influence someone’s decision to provide a child with a vaccination that could keep them from serious illness and even save a life.
So first of all, to those who aren’t in the position of making health care decisions for a child, we are begging you — think before you post online or denigrate proven methodologies in front of concerned parents and caregivers. You have no idea of the harm you’re causing.
We know from the science and from Kyle’s own personal experience as a clinical hospital pharmacist that unvaccinated patients have been the majority of those admitted to the hospital and have had more difficult courses. Fortunately, children have been less impacted overall; however, they are not immune from COVID-19’s terrible impact, including the syndrome known as long COVID-19.
Further, contracting the virus and getting sick with it leads to quarantine periods that keep kids out of school, away from family visits and all the fun that kids deserve to have.
Worst of all though, data shows that over 20,000 children between the ages of 1 and 4 have been hospitalized with COVID-19 and more than 200 have died.
Gambling on whether your child’s life will be one of those lost without the vaccine is simply not worth the risk. Our hearts break for all the families grieving the deaths of children who would be alive if they had only had the opportunity that we do now.
The evidence presented by Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna demonstrated a good efficacy and safety profile. The vaccines have been shown to be 50-80% effective at prevention of symptomatic disease (Moderna 51% after 2 doses, Pfizer 80% after 3 doses) with the most common side effects being mild.
As a credentialed, educated, and experienced pharmacist who has reviewed the studies and results, it is Kyle’s professional opinion that these are safe and effective vaccines.
As parents it is our opinion that our children’s health should never be politicized or impacted by fear-mongering that ignores basic science, and we will do everything in our power to protect our children from the serious outcomes of COVID-19.
Vaccines are the best way to do that. The data cannot be any stronger. For all ages, COVID-19 vaccines save lives. Any other statement is inaccurate.
Kyle Johnicker, is the pharmacy clinical coordinator at Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital. The Rev. Violet Johnicker is pastor of Brooke Road United Methodist Church in Rockford.
This article originally appeared on Rockford Register Star: Getting your children vaccinated is best protection against COVID-19