A pediatrician’s advice to parents worried about the COVID vaccine and their children – Baptist News Global
Also parents who are willing to have themselves vaccinated against COVID-19 may be hesitant to have their eligible children vaccinated, according to new data from the Public Religion Research Institute.
That finding doesn’t surprise Rhonda Walton, a Dallas pediatrician who has been advising parents about vaccinations for decades.
“I understand that parents may not want their children to be among the first to get the vaccine. Unfortunately, COVID doesn’t give us time to wait,” said Walton, who has worked primarily in low-income and uninsured patients’ clinics and raised three boys of her own.
The PRRI survey conducted in June found that only 35% of parents of children under 18 say they want their children vaccinated as soon as possible, while a further 40% are hesitant to have their children vaccinated at all.
Fully a quarter of parents (27%) said they will wait to see how vaccines work for other children before having their children vaccinated. And 13% said they will only vaccinate their children if it is necessary for work, school or other activities.
Even more worrisome for public health, 23% of parents said they simply wouldn’t have their children vaccinated.
Parents’ practices predict children’s attitudes
The increased hesitation about vaccinating children is strongly evident among parents who have not been vaccinated themselves, but also prominently among parents who have been vaccinated themselves.
Of the parents who accept vaccines, 56% are vaccine acceptable for their children, 36% are hesitant and only 7% say they will not have their children vaccinated, PRRI reported. Of the parents who are hesitant to vaccinate, only 3% plan to have their children vaccinated as soon as possible, 81% are hesitant to have their children vaccinated and 13% say they will not have their children vaccinated.
Parents who refuse vaccines for themselves almost uniformly said they would not have their children vaccinated (94%).
“It should come as no surprise that many parents are hesitant to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19 than to get the vaccine themselves. And to some extent, this is a valid thought process,” explains Walton. “Pre-pubescent children are not just smaller adults. Every system in a child’s body is still developing and careful study of a new pediatric vaccine is essential.”
The current risks
But the ravages of America’s current COVID resurgence, combined with the reality of kids going back to personal school, makes the ability to wait less tenable, according to Walton and other pediatricians. Over the past week, more and more doctors have appeared on TV news, in online videos and on social media explaining the huge rise in the number of children hospitalized because of COVID.
“No vaccine is ever 100% safe,” explains Walton. “I passionately advocate standard pediatric vaccines because I have no doubt that the risk of getting these vaccines is much smaller than the risk of the diseases they prevent. We are in the same place with the COVID-19 vaccine. I would encourage parents of children 12 years and older to have their children vaccinated.”
The truth for parents to understand, she said, is that the COVID vaccines have been studied and found to be safe, and the threat of illness or death is real.
“The risk right now that children will get COVID-19 and get sick or have long-term (problems) is significant, much greater than that of the vaccine.”
“The risk of children currently contracting COVID-19 and getting sick or having (problems) for a long time is significant, much greater than that of the vaccine. The best way to protect children of all ages right now is to make sure all their adult contacts are vaccinated.”
Nothing new in vaccine hesitation
Parents’ reluctance to vaccinate is nothing new. In fact, the parental anti-vax movement has become a cottage industry in America, often fueled by debunked conspiracy theories that won’t go away.
“The hesitation to vaccinate a child in general is sometimes based on completely erroneous information from a myriad of anecdotal sources, the Internet and social media,” Walton said. “So, while what is presented (with COVID) is similar to what pediatricians have experienced for years from parents hesitant about vaccines, it seems amplified — and more dangerous — now because of even more ubiquitous misinformation, political and religious polarization, and the need to process an overwhelming barrage of daily input – mostly bad news – in general.”
PRRI found that misinformation about the pandemic in general and vaccination in particular has caused parental hesitation. The latest poll found that of parents who believe in QAnon conspiracy theories, only 21% say they will have their children vaccinated, compared to more than half of parents who reject QAnon.
Demographic differences when vaccinating children
Other social demographics that Americans have defined in their response to the pandemic are also emerging in opinions about vaccinating children.
White Evangelical Protestants (18%) and Hispanic Protestants (27%) are the least likely religious groups to say they have had their children vaccinated or will have their children vaccinated as soon as possible. More than a third (36%) of white evangelical Protestants say they are hesitant to have their children vaccinated, and 42% say they will not have their children vaccinated.
Hispanic Protestants are much more likely to hesitate (52%) than to refuse vaccines to their children (19%). About a third of white Protestants (33%), black Protestants (35%) and religiously unaffiliated Americans (35%) accept a vaccine for their children. Four in ten white Catholics (40%) and about half of Hispanic Catholics (48%) say they have or will have their children vaccinated.
Among other demographic differences:
Half of Democrats (49%) accept the vaccine for their children, while 37% are hesitant and 12% say they will not have their children vaccinated. More independents are undecided: 33% accept, 47% hesitate and 19% refuse vaccines for their children. Republicans are the least accepting (24%), while 38% are hesitant and more than a third (36%) say they will not have their children vaccinated. Male parents are more likely than female parents to say they will have their children vaccinated as soon as possible (41% vs. 30%), and male parents of color are even more likely to say so than their white counterparts (47% vs. 30%). 37%). Parents with a high school diploma or less are half as likely as those with postgraduate degrees to say they will have their children vaccinated as soon as possible (26% vs. 52%), while those with some college experience but no degree (31% ) and those with a four-year college degree (45%) fall in between.
The importance of finding reliable sources
Again, the current debate over COVID vaccination appears to be reinforcing some long-standing trends, Walton explained.
“As a Christian, I am always amazed at the subset of those who – as outspoken Christians – reject any scientific or public health discussion and focus entirely on ‘individual rights’ without at least considering data on how their individual choices can harm others’, she said. “This is an argument I’ve heard many times in my years of practice, and I suspect it plays a role in the religious and political inequalities highlighted in these studies.
“I have trouble finding this emphasis on individual rights anywhere in the teachings of Christ.”
“I have trouble finding this emphasis on individual rights anywhere in Christ’s teachings. This focus appears to be even more pervasive in the COVID-19 vaccine discussion than it is with vaccines in general.”
And the political differences emerging in attitudes toward COVID and vaccines seem to have permeated the debate over vaccinating children, Walton noted. “It probably reflects the wide range of information sources that parents use. Political views shouldn’t play a role in health care decisions about our children, but I’m concerned that parents will get completely different ‘facts’ depending on their politically driven ‘news’ -consumption.’
Just because some news sources claim to be “faith-based” doesn’t mean they are reliable or accurate, she added. These are “unfortunately more and more a reflection of political bias. Decisions about vaccines (or vaccine exemptions) should be based on medical issues and risks, never on political or religious beliefs.”
As a pediatrician, her advice to parents is to get information about their children’s medical care from trusted sources such as the Family Pediatrician, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the AAP’s website especially for parents called Healthy Children, and the Advisory Committee on immunization practices.
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