Parents share reasons for giving kids the COVID-19 vaccine
By Elliot T. Sumi, MD
Across the Golden State, parents are speaking with their pediatricians about getting young children vaccinated against COVID-19. In my examination rooms, parents often have questions about vaccine safety and I’m happy to share how the COVID-19 vaccines were developed and tested, so they can understand the benefits. Thankfully, many parents of my patients are choosing to give their 5- to 11-year-old children this protection against serious illness, hospitalization and even death.
If you are still deciding whether to vaccinate your child against COVID-19, I want to share some of the reasons my patients’ parents cite. I think these “whys” for choosing vaccination can often be more powerful than any commercial or public health announcement, because they come from other parents who, like you, only want the best for their kids.
Recently, I reached out to several of my pediatrician colleagues across the state who shared some of the comments they have received from the parents they see in their examination rooms. While we’ve kept comments anonymous to protect patient identity, it is easy to see that the reasons parents give fall into several categories:
Protection from the worst of COVID-19: Many parents choose to vaccinate their children aged 5-11 to protect them against the worst outcomes from COVID-19, including serious illness, hospitalization and even death. “Even if my kids do get COVID-19, I want to give them the best chance to avoid hospitalization,” a mother said. But other parents also mention the desire to protect kids from long COVID, where symptoms can last for months or even years.
Protection for school and activities: Parents tell us they want their kids to have protection at school and when taking part in extracurriculars, like sports and scouting. “I feel better knowing my kids are vaccinated when they return to basketball,” one mom told me.
Protection for family: Some parents live in multi-generational households, and they chose to get their eligible children vaccinated to help protect elderly grandparents or newborns and infants, as well as to honor family members who work as doctors and nurses on the front lines of pandemic response. Some parents work on the front lines themselves and worry about bringing COVID-19 home to their kids. Household exposures remain one of the most common places for transmission, and vaccinating everyone eligible in the home is the biggest way to avert this. “I worry about bringing COVID-19 home from my job and I want to keep my kids safe,” one dad said.
Protection when socializing: Parents know kids gave up so much in the early months of the pandemic, and they want their kids to get back to the activities they love–from sleepovers to parties. “My kids really missed their friends during lockdown and with vaccines they can play again and have protection,” one dad told me.
Protecting the larger community: There are also parents who recognize the power of vaccines to help us avoid future variants. The more active the virus remains, the more likely it will spread and try to form even more variants. The more people become vaccinated against it, the less chance it has to mutate and spread. “Stopping new variants from forming will only happen if more of us get vaccinated, including our kids,” a mom said.
It makes me feel good as a pediatrician when the parents of my patients share their “whys” when it comes to vaccinating their kids. When I hear these reasons, it is easy to see that we all share the same concerns about our children’s safety, and that parents only want the best protection for their kids.
When you are ready to ask questions about vaccination, or get your child vaccinated, please talk to your child’s pediatrician, or visit MyTurn.CA.gov to find a vaccine near you.
Elliot T. Sumi, MD, is a pediatrician in Torrance, California and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Torrance Memorial Medical Center and Providence Little Company of Mary Medical Center Torrance. Dr. Sumi completed his pediatric training at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He received his medical degree from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years.