My 12-year-old was one of the first adolescents in line for the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination. Some parents struggled with the decision; for me it was a no-brainer. I am a parent, former substitute teacher, and just wrapped up a contract on behalf of the Pennsylvania Department of Health as a contact tracer. I have lived and breathed the issue of COVID for over a year. Like most Americans, we entered lockdown in mid-March, 2020. I left my job working in schools and haven’t yet returned. My spouse also worked in a school as an intervention specialist at that time. My son didn’t return to school that year. As things began to open up, my son and spouse returned to school in the fall, and I became a contact tracer to help in the war on Covid.
I wanted to get my son vaccinated for several reasons – health concerns, CDC data, and personal experience as a contact tracer. You may want to vaccinate your teen if you have a high-risk family member – someone 65 or older, or someone at any age with lung or heart problems, diabetes, obesity, cancer, or a weakened immune system. In my household we check a few of these boxes.
When considering whether to vaccinate your child you may want to refer to the CDC. It is the federal agency tasked with preventing and controlling disease in our country. As more information is learned about a disease, the CDC informs the public about new findings and recommendations. The day before my son’s second Pfizer vaccination, I read about a higher-than-expected number of mild myocarditis cases (inflammation of the heart wall) among vaccinated young men, ages 16 to 24.
I decided to call my son’s pediatrician. She explained that myocarditis is very rare compared to the number of adolescents already given vaccines without side effects. Our doctor said it is more important for my son to be protected against the Coronavirus and that myocarditis can have many other causes in young people.
The next day, the CDC released separate information concerning teens and Covid, having observed an increase in adolescents’ COVID rates from March to April, 2021. Of the youngsters ages 12-17 who contracted Covid-19 during April in its statistical sample, 204 needed hospitalization,1/3 of those required ICU admission, and 5% needed to be placed on ventilators. The CDC further advised that getting vaccinated is the best protection against severe COVID, and it allows kids to resume group activities safely. That sealed the deal for me. I was glad when my son went later that afternoon for his vaccine.
My final reason for vaccination was my work as a contact tracer. When lockdown started, I needed to find rewarding work to do from home. Contact tracing was perfect because I was able to work remotely and fight COVID. I saw first-hand the wide range of effects that COVID had on people and the hardships it created.
People were struggling to keep their families safe, provide income, and deal with the economic impact of COVID. Some families handled it fine upon learning that their child had been exposed to Covid-19. They made sure that child stayed home from school for 10 days. Other families were greatly impacted, with several family members having COVID symptoms, a family member in the hospital, no one to bring them groceries, lost income, and dread about what might come next.
In one instance, I called a family to confirm quarantine dates, and the father answered. He asked me to call back in 30 minutes. An ambulance was on the way because his wife couldn’t breathe. He would be there to answer because he was on quarantine and would not be able to accompany her to the hospital. This was heartbreaking. Now that people can get vaccinated, there will be fewer of these stories.
In getting my son vaccinated, I know that he is protected against Covid-19 and that there are many more benefits. He can now play sports safely without having to quarantine from being in close contact to someone else who may test positive for COVID. He will be able to attend events and activities and feel safe if he doesn’t have a mask with him. He is being a good member of the community by helping to keep others safe because those with COVID can give it to others even when they are asymptomatic.
He got the vaccine so that kids can go back to school without interruptions and illnesses. The vaccine was made for his health, the health of his family, and the health of his community. That is why my 12-year-old got the Covid-19 vaccine!
“We are in this together – and we will get through this, together.”
U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres
Rebecca Brocious is an area wife and mother.