County Update: Why I will vaccinate my son against COVID-19

Beth Melton
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
Routt County Commissioner Beth Melton.
Courtesy photo

Parents are hard-wired to protect our children. We always want them to be safe, happy and healthy. And yet, we are faced with tough decisions about exactly what that means. This has never been more apparent than in the COVID-19 pandemic. Can my kid play with his friends? Can she see her grandma? Is it better to be isolated from his peers or risk COVID-19 exposure at school? What about if she wears a mask? And now: Should I get him vaccinated?

Pediatric vaccines are likely to be available for 5- to 11-year-olds in the coming days, and every one of us will have to sort through the noise and decide what decision we will make. As with many parents, I want to be absolutely certain that vaccinating my son is the right choice.

I have followed the developments on pediatric vaccines with bated breath over the past few months, and I am excited that, in the coming days, I will have the opportunity to give my son a safe and effective vaccine so he can have the same freedom that I have felt since getting vaccinated — the freedom to gather with family and friends, to give people hugs and to spend much of my time without a mask.

For nearly two years now, our children’s lives have been upended. My son just turned 6, so that means that almost one-third of his life has been during the pandemic. He missed almost a year of preschool. He didn’t get to play with his friends. He wears a mask all day at school. And every day, we continue to read about the strained hospital capacity in Colorado, the kids who are getting sick and the death toll in places with low vaccination rates. I know we are all ready to move out of crisis mode and put the past two years behind us.

I also know that vaccines are the path out of the pandemic. So, as a parent, I’ve worked to understand the answers to the tough questions about a COVID-19 vaccine for kids to make the right choice for my family.

Is COVID-19 dangerous? We all know that kids are much less likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19 than adults. But, as I heard Dr. Leana Wen say in a recent town hall, “Kids are not supposed to die.” Even though it is less fatal for children than adults, COVID-19 is still one of the top 10 causes of death for children in 2021.

Is the vaccine safe for kids? For every vaccine that is approved by the FDA, it is determined by a team of experts that the benefit outweighs the risks. This is true of our kids’ routine childhood vaccinations, and it is true of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Lee Savio Beers, the president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said, “Weighing all those risks and benefits, the risk of becoming infected with COVID far outweighs the potential risk of the vaccine. Many experts in pediatric infectious disease, pediatric cardiology, epidemiology have looked very carefully at this data both within the FDA and the CDC, including many of our own experts, and are overwhelmingly confident that the vaccine is safe and effective for all the age groups for which it’s authorized.”

Most importantly to me, it’s not just about him. As a mom, I want my son to believe that we live in a community, and we have a responsibility to take care of others. There are adults and children who cannot be vaccinated.

There are vaccinated people who will always be at increased risk of hospitalization or death because of their age or some preexisting health condition. I also know there will be kids and families who choose not to be vaccinated. We live in a community, and so in order to help keep our community safe and healthy, we choose to be vaccinated.

Since the day he was born, my son has been vaccinated against myriad diseases — measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, chickenpox and influenza. I choose to have him vaccinated because I know that these are life-saving vaccines; they protect against diseases that his grandparents (and even his parents) contracted, but now, him, his friends and his cousins don’t risk disability or death because the children in this country are largely vaccinated against these illnesses, and I want COVID-19 to be the same for him and all of us.

If you’re not sure yet, that’s OK. I hope you’ll read what the American Academy of Pediatrics, the CDC and the FDA have to say and that you’ll watch Steamboat Pilot & Today’s forum at 11 a.m. Thursday about COVID-19 vaccines for kids. Most critically, please take all of your questions to your child’s doctor so you can make the best choice for your family.

Beth Melton serves on the Routt County Board of Commissioners.

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