Key Issues

Waiting to Vax

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My daughter turned 1 just two days after Gov. Jay Inslee issued the first stay-at-home orders of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. We opened birthday presents with family on Facetime and she had her first birthday cake on Facebook live. In the ensuing two years she missed out on playing in the church nursery, countless swim and dance lessons, playdates with other toddlers, library story times, and spending holidays with family.

This is a common refrain for everyone who has lived through the pandemic — opportunities missed, aspirations delayed, and a longing for a return to some type of normal. The difference between my daughter and everyone else aged 5 and over is the opportunity to be vaccinated. My husband and I, as well as our teenage sons, were vaccinated and boosted as soon as we were eligible, for a host of reasons. One of our primary reasons was to help protect our beloved toddler until she, too, could be vaccinated.

As the mandates are lifted and restrictions eased, it is important to remember there is a large group of people who don’t yet even have an opportunity to be vaccinated.

To date there is no approved Covid vaccination for children under the age of 5 and preliminary data submitted to the FDA has been retracted multiple times. I appreciate the care that scientists and epidemiologists have put into ensuring the vaccine is safe and effective for this age group, but it does feel like we’re being left behind as the world starts getting back to normal.

We will choose to vaccinate our daughter once she is eligible because we believe it is the simplest and most effective way to lessen the risk of severe disease. Choosing to vaccinate our toddler will also decreases the risk of her or others suffering from long Covid and the possibility of facing multi-system inflammatory system disorder. But a vaccination for this age group could do far more good than just improving outcomes for individual toddlers if, by chance, they contract COVID-19.

Making a vaccination for children under age 5 a priority would also substantially shift the burden away from other mitigation efforts, such as masking, testing and quarantining. All these efforts are designed to benefit an unvaccinated population but can add to the isolation of children.

The option to vaccinate will also reduce interruptions to childcare and school for these children. It presents an opportunity to significantly increase the overall health and wellbeing of families across the country.

As our local area adapts to life with fewer mandates, increased opportunities to gather and a return to a more “normal” life, please don’t forget about the babies, toddlers and preschoolers who remain at greater risk of infection than the general public.

Many of us are watching as the world enjoys the benefits of the vaccine while hoping our child’s turn is coming soon. Prioritizing a vaccine for children under 5 years old will help ensure they don’t miss out on any more than they already have.

Meredith Browand is a mother and activist who lives in Purdy.


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