Each of us has a responsibility to ensure that those around us are protected. We reduce the spread of COVID-19 by vaccinating and protecting ourselves, our loved ones and our communities.
The COVID-19 vaccine is safe for us and our children. Even in young children under the age of 5, these vaccines are effective in reducing severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths related to COVID-19. However, just over 8% of eligible infants and toddlers nationwide received their first dose of the vaccine.
Overall, pediatric vaccination rates varied widely by state, ranging from 2% to 32% who received their first dose. Washington state was at 14%.
Public health experts and officials worry that as another potential fall or winter wave of COVID-19 infections looms, we’re putting America’s youngest children at unnecessary risk.
Dr Lakshmi Deepa Yerram, Chief Medical Officer of International Community Health Services (ICHS), stressed the importance that parents should vaccinate their children.
Vaccines can save lives
“The number one thing is that vaccines help prevent kids from contracting COVID-19. There are no two ways to solve this problem,” Dr. Yelam said. “While we know that COVID-19 in children is sometimes milder than what we see in adults, some children who contract the coronavirus can develop severe lung infections that make them very sick and require hospitalization. We read reports of children tragically dying from this infection.”
Vaccinating children can also prevent or reduce the spread of the virus to others in the family who may be immunocompromised. Also, vaccination helps prevent the emergence of other variants.
“As long as the virus can spread easily between unvaccinated children and adults, we’re giving new variants a chance to emerge,” Dr Yelam said. “So the best way to stop this is to make sure everyone who can get vaccinated is vaccinated.”
One question that has been on almost everyone’s mind since the beginning is whether the COVID-19 vaccine is safe. Dr. Yerram assures that they have been thoroughly tested and eventually cleared for use. For the sake of urgency, no steps were skipped – all clinical trials followed standard protocols. Side effects, if they do exist, are minimal.
“With all of these factors in mind, we know this vaccine is safe. We know it’s going to make our lives better and easier. We know it’s going to reduce emerging mutations, and we know it’s going to keep our kids safe safety. I don’t see any other way to underscore why it’s important for every child, including children five and younger, to get this vaccine.”
Vaccinations play an even more important role as children return to classrooms. While schools have done a good job of implementing measures such as improved ventilation, physical distancing, proper hand washing, wearing masks when appropriate, and “stay home when sick” policies, vaccination just adds another layer of protection.
Outreach to communities of color
Certain populations are disproportionately affected by COVID-19 for a variety of reasons. For example, cultural and racial differences have contributed to a certain level of mistrust in the healthcare community.
“We have to remember that these diverse communities often come from difficult places. There are issues of lack of access to health care, as well as stigma and stereotypes around poor sanitation and disease-carrying,” Dr. Yelam noted. “The general distrust created by government organizations and structured medicine has led to hesitation in the populations we serve.”
Therefore, communication has become a major focus of ICHS. Health centers have been working to make it easier for community members to get vaccinated. Information is disseminated through community outreach, social media, radio, podcasts, short videos and interviews. ICHS ensures that community members receive information in their spoken language, with more than 70 different languages in the ICHS network.
ICHS provides vaccinations during regular clinic visits, at vaccination sites, through its pharmacies and through pop-up clinics throughout the community (grocery stores, religious institutions, community centers, schools). According to Dr. Yelam, it was an all-hands-on effort.
“We continue to ensure that our patients can benefit from the vaccines currently available for COVID-19 by ensuring that appropriate information is released and that they are vaccinated when they are ready to be vaccinated.”
go ichs.com/covid-19-vaccine-appointments understand more.