CALEDONIA — Now the children get their turns to roll up their sleeves and strike a blow against the COVID-19 pandemic.
Parents in the Racine area did not wait long to get vaccinations for their young kids, after the federal government approved the vaccines for children as young as 5 years old.
Voicing confidence in the health experts urging vaccinations, parents took their kids for shots over the weekend as the first vaccine shipments for small children arrived in the Racine area.
Lisa Mau of Pleasant Prairie said she had been nervous about her 6-year-old son, Christopher, attending school in an environment where the contagious COVID-19 virus could spread.
“This is kind of peace of mind for us,” Mau said after Christopher got his shot Saturday at the Walgreens store at 5005 Douglas Ave. Christopher wore a T-shirt that read, “Go, Science.”
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His mother said she feels assured that vaccinating kids is the best approach to protecting them from COVID-19. She pointed out that public health experts support vaccinations, and that government regulators agree.
“I don’t have faith — I have science,” she said.
COVID-19 vaccinations previously were approved only for people aged 12 and older. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week lowered the age to 5, making vaccinations available to another 28 million Americans.
While fewer than 600 of the U.S.’s 750,000 COVID-19 deaths were kids ages 0-17, according to the CDC, children are as susceptible as anyone to spread the coronavirus — especially with schools being in-person.
Side effects of the vaccine do exist, including the serious heart condition myocarditis, which is usually temporary if survived. But — experts say — the risks of contracting COVID itself are much higher than the risks of the vaccine.
“About 20-30% of patients hospitalized with COVID-19 show heart problems,” Cardiologist Nayereh Pezeshkian, of the University of California, Davis, wrote last month. “Rare heart inflammation cases — around one in 6,000 — were reported in teenagers after their COVID-19 vaccination. These cases have been mild and self-resolving. However, the chance of developing severe illness and death after a COVID-19 infection is much higher, (from) 2-10%.
“There is a higher risk of myocarditis from COVID itself than there is from the vaccine. At this time, most hospitalization — particularly to critical care — and deaths are related to unvaccinated groups. So, I tell my patients to get vaccinated.”
‘Back to normal’
The Walgreens pharmacy on Douglas Avenue was among the first in the Racine area to offer the shots for young kids over the weekend. Store managers declined to comment, and they barred a Journal Times reporter from going inside the store.
Some parents in the Racine area remain skeptical about getting their kids vaccinated, despite top government health officials and experts urging it with only a few exceptions, such as a rare allergy to ingredients in the vaccines.
In a discussion on Facebook, parents expressed skepticism and said they would not get their children vaccinated. Some even said they would allow their kids to decide the matter.
“Something doesn’t sit right with me when it comes to that vaccine,” Shakita Moore posted.
Another parent, Adam Michael Smith, posted: “My kids will absolutely not be jabbed.”
At the Walgreens in Caledonia, other parents happily brought their children for shots Saturday, and they voiced gratitude that kids now enjoy the same protection as adults and teenagers.
Jenelle Isaacson of Caledonia drove all four of her kids — aged 6 to 10 — to get their vaccinations. Isaacson said the family wants to feel safe to visit with friends and family this winter holiday season, without concern about the kids spreading COVID-19.
“We’ve been waiting for this day,” she said. “It’s a key way that we’re all going to get back to normal.”
Asked about the skeptics who are out there, Isaacson said, “We trust the scientists, and we trust the science.”
Another parent was Alyson Weiss of Racine, a longtime area school administrator who now serves as school superintendent in Milwaukee suburban Glendale. Weiss brought her 11-year-old daughter, Natalie, to get vaccinated at Walgreens.
Weiss said she is excited to see younger children eligible for COVID vaccines now. She said that she and her older children have all been vaccinated already.
“We’re very much a family of: ‘This is common sense,’” she said.
Although the vaccinations are being offered free of charge at Walgreens, some parents Saturday passed up the chance to get their kids taken care of. Most of those parents declined to comment.
Angelika Szygula of Caledonia, who was shopping with her daughter, Mildred, 10, said they would come back another time for Mildred’s vaccination. Szygula said she was unaware that the shots were being offered for younger kids.
Szygula said her 12-year-old son has been vaccinated, and she planned to have Mildred vaccinated soon, too.
“I trust the people whose job it is to keep us healthy,” she said.
Mildred nodded in agreement, saying she is anxious to get vaccinated so she can stop wearing a protective face mask so often.
“I’m ready,” she said.
Stef Strauss-Thompkins of Racine said she did a lot of reading and other research about the vaccinations before bringing her daughters — Finley, 10, and Rhemy, 8 — to get their shots Saturday.
The family would like to enjoy the winter holidays and do some traveling without worrying about the virus, Strauss-Thompkins said. She said her family wants to be fully vaccinated “so we can get on with life.”
She added: “We are looking to get this done and get it over with.”