Youth ages 12-15 have been able to receive the Pfizer vaccine for just over two weeks now, and families are having the talk — the COVID-19 vaccination talk, that is.
Parents, even those enthusiastic about the vaccine, are waiting for their children to decide the right moment to get vaccinated.
Cottage Health has administered first doses to 2,667 youth ages 12-15, as of Thursday morning. There are approximately 4,800 people ages 12-15 in Goleta and Santa Barbara combined, according to U.S. Census data.
“Every family is having their individual battle,” said Christy Philip, an emergency room nurse at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital who has been working the vaccine clinic at Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital.
She has three kids, ages 14, 16 and 18. Two have been vaccinated, and she’s letting her 16-year-old son wait and ponder his decision.
She was a bit nervous about admitting that she, as a frontline worker, has an unvaccinated child. But then she thought, it might be encouraging to families mulling over their options as well.
“I think there are a lot of rumors, and there are a lot of kids hesitant to get the vaccine because of what they’re reading online,” she told the News-Press.
She encourages parents to talk with their children about the vaccine and seek reliable sources, like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Families can also talk with their pediatrician, she said.
“It’s not that I think that it should be all the children’s decisions, but I think the world has been so scary and weird that it’s good to give them space to process,” she said.
Her 18-year-old son, a freshman in college at the University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, begged her for the vaccine when he was home during the holidays.
He lived in an on-campus residence hall and had to isolate himself for 14 days when his two roommates contracted COVID-19.
Ms. Philip didn’t use her position with Cottage Health to speed up her son’s inoculation, but her experience allowed her to better motivate her children and friends to make their appointments.
When the pandemic first struck locally, she was worried about bringing the virus home. She changed her clothes and shoes and showered when she returned home after her shifts.
She spent time on the phone with loved ones, giving them advice about how to protect their family. Now people have fewer questions, and her recommendation now revolves around the vaccine.
Dan Oh, a volunteer at the Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital vaccine clinic, feels “so much safer” now that his 12-year-old son is vaccinated. His son was ready to be vaccinated as soon as the emergency-use authorization extended to his age group.
“He certainly was eager and happy to get vaccinated. He knew what it meant to be vaccinated that he could go out and do things,” Mr. Oh told the News-Press.
“I feel like he can go do more things and see people, especially going into the summer. A second summer of no camps and activities would be hard,” he said.
Most of the parents he knows have a similar perspective.
“Some parents are withholding, so it’s not 100%; it’s not universal. I think you have to really respect that and not push that,” he said.
He’s noticed less urgency in the community to get vaccinated but says the demand for vaccines is far from over.
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration started looking into cases of myocarditis, or inflammation of the heart muscle, in youth that had been vaccinated.
Dr. Peter Marks, the FDA’s top vaccine regulator, said he wasn’t sure if the condition was related to the vaccine.
“My kids are a little older, but I wouldn’t hesitate to vaccinate my children, just because this is a pretty rare finding and we really don’t know yet if it’s truly related,” he said during a Q&A event Thursday.
Neither Mr. Oh nor Ms. Philip noticed side effects in their vaccinated kids, not even sore arms.
They both compared the COVID-19 vaccine to the shots for smallpox, whooping cough and the other vaccinations required by schools nationwide.
Schools and employers are currently not allowed to mandate a COVID-19 vaccination. If the vaccine receives full FDA approval, not just under emergency use, then proof of vaccination could be required.
But, for now, families have time to discuss.