CLEVELAND — Just 16% of Ohio kids aged five to 11 are fully vaccinated. 22.26% have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Health officials say the low vaccination rate is creating a challenge as omicron cases peak and exposures reach a high inside daycares and schools.
While pediatricians say that the numbers were expected, they're still frustrating. Some parents are also facing the issue that Carly Henry, a mom with two school-aged daughters and a toddler, told 3News' Sara Shookman that she is having. Henry chose to vaccinate her two children as soon as possible. Now, however, she still has her toddler to worry about.
"Everything we do is a lot more calculated just because we do have one family member who is a lot more vulnerable," Henry said.
This week, Moderna confirmed what Pfizer told Americans a few weeks ago – its vaccine trials for kids under five are being extended. The goalpost moves to April at the earliest.
"Spring is a few long months away," Henry said.
"All the parents of kids who can't be vaccinated yet are just sitting here like, 'great, thank you really looking forward to this winter of death for my child.' Like, that's just awful," said Jamie Green, who writes for Slate's Future Tense.
Green recently penned a piece about her experiences with daycare quarantines and other tough choices, getting shared widely by parents who say they feel seen.
"Just the acknowledgement that they know are out there that they know we're waiting, that they know this is so hard would be really helpful," Green said.
Many doctors and health experts feel it, too.
"I have a three-year-old, so am I it there with you," says Dr. Amy Edwards, a pediatric infectious disease expert at University Hospitals.
"Pre-omicron, my mindset was that I could keep my family COVID-free. I don't really think that anymore with omicron," said Dr. Edwards. "It's more, how can I, how can I minimize how omicron is going to affect my family when, when it, when it does happen."
Dr. Edwards says that comes down to viral load. Vaccinating the rest of your family can cocoon a younger child. Masking does that too and can result in a more mild case. It could impact how your child gets omicron.
“Even if you say, 'well, they probably will still get it anyways.' Yeah. They might. But again, that where, you know, what does a mask do? The mask reduces the viral load. So by filtering out however many percent of my droplets instead of 20,000 viral particles getting through maybe only 1000 viral particles are getting through or whatever that might be, and that does make a difference. It makes a difference in the severity of the disease of the next person, viral load matters," Dr. Edwards said.
Edwards also says that the last six weeks have been some of the worst throughout the COVID-19 pandemic at University Hospitals Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital.
"Everybody talks about, 'oh, omicron, not that big of a deal.' I've even heard somebody call it omi-cold," Edwards says. "It's not a cold, it's still worse than the worst flu."
Dr. Edwards says about 30% of hospitalized kids at Rainbow Babies with COVID had no underlying conditions. They were simply unvaccinated.
They just aren't seeing vaccinated kids, even those with asthma and other complications in the hospital because the vaccines are even more effective in that age group than in adults.
"The reason for that is because kids' immune systems are much more flexible than adult immune systems are," Dr. Edwards told Shookman. "And so they do typically, uh, produce a wider array of antibodies to an insult, like to an antigen stimulation than adult immune systems do. The vaccine offers more protection against omicron to kids than it offers to adults. So there's so, so many reasons to vaccinate your child, um, against omicron."
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