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Parents of Youngest Seem Wary of Covid Vaccine

Thu, 07/14/2022 - 10:57
A Kaiser Family Foundation survey published in May showed that about two in five parents of children under age 5 said they planned to wait and see how the vaccine works for others before deciding what to do.
Carissa Katz

In the three and a half weeks since Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, signed off on Covid-19 vaccines for children under 5, there has not been a huge demand, according to Dr. Gail Schonfeld of East End Pediatrics in East Hampton.

On June 18, the C.D.C. okayed the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 6 months through 4 years old and the Moderna vaccine for children 6 months through 5 years old. This expands the eligibility for vaccination to nearly 20 million additional children in the United States.

The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose series separated by 28 days and the Pfizer vaccine is a three-dose series separated by 21 days and 60 days, respectively. Both vaccines are at about a third of the normal strength of the vaccines given to older kids and adults.

However, said Dr. Schonfeld over the phone, “A lot of the parents are saying they would rather wait. I think every time a new age group is approved, people are concerned that maybe we don’t know all that we need to know to safely administer it. I do disagree with that. I think we know everything we need to know and that the benefit outweighs the risk.”

According to the C.D.C., since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have been over 2 million cases, 20,000 hospitalizations, and 200 deaths due to Covid-19 in children 5 and under, for whom vaccines were not available until recently.

In a statement, Dr. Walensky said she “encourage[d] parents and caregivers with questions to talk to their doctor, nurse, or local pharmacist to learn more about the benefits of vaccinations and the importance of protecting their children by getting them vaccinated.”

Dr. Schonfeld said her East Hampton practice administered about 20 vaccines to the under-5-year-olds on the first day the vaccines became available. “These were the people who had mentioned to us that they were eager to get a vaccine for their kids. We didn’t actually solicit anyone at the beginning,” she said, and then added, “Now, we are recommending the vaccine and we are trying to catch them as they come in for other reasons and do it when they’re here.”

A women in the Amagansett I.G.A., with two children under 5, who did not want to give her name, said she would not be vaccinating her children, or herself. “We don’t do flu shots or anything,” she said.

She is not alone. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey published in May showed that about two in five parents of children under age 5 said they planned to wait and see how the vaccine works for others before deciding what to do. Also in the study, only 18 percent of parents of children in this age group said they were eager to get their child vaccinated right away, while 38 percent said they would definitely not get their children vaccinated, or would do so only if required to.

But Dr. Schonfeld said she is urging parents to get their children vaccinated as quickly as possible. “I know people are less concerned about this infection than they were two years ago and for good reason,” she said. “But clearly it’s not gone. It won’t be gone and not everybody does well, although this age group has a fairly low risk of serious problems and an extremely low risk of mortality. But hospitalization is not insignificant. And having an infant in the hospital is a special kind of horrible that’s best avoided. So, I do recommend the vaccine for all children, including those who’ve already been infected.”


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