Parents: Child vaccination is the responsible choice

St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS)

As of this week, parents in all but one state in the U.S. will be able to obtain vaccination against the coronavirus for children under 5 to as young as 6 months. Florida, as usual, remains an outlier, with Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis putting his political ambitions above the health and safety of his constituents by refusing to preorder the new vaccines or to make them available through state health departments.

The fact Missouri and other red states didn’t follow his example is an encouraging sign that perhaps some in the GOP are starting to recover from this aggressive infection of antiscience zealotry.

Still, there remains significant hesitance among parents, with one major poll showing just 1 in 5 plans to immediately get their young children vaccinated.

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That’s certainly in part due to irresponsible leaders like DeSantis and Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, who have found it politically useful to pander to the worst elements of the right even if it means scaring people away from these life-saving vaccines.

Their disinformation notwithstanding, the data is clear: After millions of immunizations during roughly a year and a half now, the vaccines have proven remarkably safe and effective at both preventing infection and muting the worst of the symptoms when infection does occur. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in some studies, hospitalization rates for the unvaccinated are more than 20 times higher than for those who are fully vaccinated and boostered. For all that, serious side effects from the vaccines are rare, and there’s virtually no evidence they have contributed to any fatalities.

Pharmacist Kaitlin Harring administers a Moderna COVID-19 vaccination to 3-year-old Fletcher Pack while he sits on his mother’s lap Monday at a Walgreens in Lexington, South Carolina.

In light of all that, why would any parents not get their kids vaccinated? One common reason is that the virus rarely infects young children, and their cases tend to be mild when they do get it. This is true, but can create the deceptive belief that there’s no danger at all.

There is, to the kids and to those around them. More than 13 million children have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic started, creating 13 million opportunities for the virus to spread even if most of the children themselves were spared the worst of the effects.

Most, but not all. DeSantis’ recent declaration that children “have zero risk” of contracting the virus is simply false. Some 40,000 kids have been hospitalized during the pandemic and more than 1,000 have died. That’s a sliver of America’s child population, of course, but it’s still a far higher child-death rate than from, say, influenza, which typically kills fewer than 200 kids annually.

If it’s one of your kids, that’s not “zero risk,” but an avoidable tragedy. Parents should trust their doctors and the data — not the demagogues.

— From the St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial board (TNS).