Right now is the right time to vaccinate your child against COVID-19

Gretchen Homan
David Jordan

With August around the corner, now’s the time to make sure our kids are protected from COVID-19 when they return to school. As parents, we want the best for our kids. It’s our responsibility to make decisions on their behalf to keep them healthy, safe and in a position to thrive.

We never expected parenting would involve a global pandemic, school closures, remote learning and protecting children who were not eligible for vaccines.

Thankfully, in recent weeks the U.S. Food and Drug Administration made it easier for all parents to protect their children from COVID-19 by authorizing vaccines for children ages 6 months through 4 years and boosters for children ages 5 through 11.

The vaccines are safe and tested

Early on, we yearned for a return to “normal” and knew a vaccine was critical to achieving that goal. Thanks to established vaccine science, research, rigorous clinical trials, and ongoing safety monitoring, adults have been eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines since December 2020.

The results have been amazing — reduced risk of death, severe illness, hospitalization, and spread.

Adults helped us return to “normal,” but kids can keep us there. Children share viruses as easily as they share toys. Kids need protection from COVID-19, just as we protect them from other vaccine-preventable infections.

Following the same process, safe, effective vaccines and boosters have been available for children ages 5 to 17. Over 27 million children ages 5 through 17 have gotten a COVID vaccine.

The same rigorous authorization process was used for the vaccines for children under 5.

Children can get very sick from COVID-19.

Much of what pediatricians do is preventive health care. Vaccines are a crucial part of that. Administered in a moment, vaccines can provide children with lasting protection from devastating illnesses.

To greatly reduce risks to our children, we must prioritize COVID-19 vaccination. However, in Kansas, only 25% of kids ages 5 through 11 and 53% of kids ages 12 through 17 have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, children have accounted for about 19% of cases in the United States. Children are getting the virus.

Although the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the brain and organs are not entirely clear, we know some people, including children, suffer significant long-term complications that hinder their ability to live full lives. As parents, we should embrace the opportunity to vaccinate our children against COVID-19’s long-term effects.

Elise, a Hutchinson teen, was a healthy 15-year-old when she contracted COVID-19. After her quarantine ended, she returned to school. She didn’t make it through the day. She’d developed long COVID. She had no energy and was short of breath.

Seventeen months later, Elise is still attending school online. She can’t sit up for long periods of time without getting dizzy, and she uses a wheelchair to get around. Thankfully, she recently stopped using supplemental oxygen.

It’s normal to have questions about vaccinating your child. Doctors welcome them. If you have concerns about COVID-19 vaccines, please talk to your child’s doctor. We know appointments go quickly; a good way to prepare is to write your questions down beforehand and bring them with you.

As parents, we both chose to vaccinate our kids against COVID-19. We knew vaccination was critical to preventing illness, keeping them safe, and supporting healthy development.

Previous generations of parents were the first to vaccinate children against measles, rubella, and polio. When our children look back, they’ll realize how important it was for their parents to vaccinate them against COVID-19. Join us in doing everything we can to protect the health and well-being of our children.

You can find a COVID-19 vaccine near you at vaccines.gov or by calling (800) 232-0233.

Gretchen Homan, M.D., is president of the Kansas Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and former chair of the Immunize Kansas Coalition. David Jordan is president and CEO of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund in Hutchinson.

This article originally appeared on Topeka Capital-Journal: This is right time to vaccinate your child against COVID-19 in Kansas