Would you give your child under the age of 5 the COVID vaccine? Some Central Mass. parents were excited

WORCESTER – Jenny Pacillo’s son Bixby just had his first birthday party with his extended family in May. Nothing unusual here – except that Bixby turned 3 years old.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Bixby’s first two birthdays were restricted to his parents and siblings, so this year marked the first where it was safe enough to hold a proper celebration.

Even so, Pacillo still worries — he’s weighing the importance of socializing Bixby alongside their year-old Goldie against the risk of exposure to COVID.

Soon, urban youth like Bixby and the rest of under-5s across central Massachusetts and the state will have another extra layer of protection, and their parents will be able to breathe easier.

Last weekend, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration gave green lights to Pfizer and Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccines for children over 6 months and under 5 years of age.

With many kids in this age group having known nothing but lockdown restrictions, parents are just as excited, if not more so, by the news.

“I had a COVID baby, and my three-year-old’s first birthday was at the beginning of COVID when we were still cleaning up groceries,” Pacillo said. “I’m so, so happy with the vaccine.”

She will be taking Bixby and Goldie to a clinic via their pediatrician next week.

Robert Burgess, communications specialist in the acting city manager’s office, said the city has ordered vaccines for children ages 6 months to 5 years and “is currently in the planning process for their administration.”

Although not available in clinics this week, the doses should be available soon and residents will be kept informed, he said. Until then, Burgess encouraged parents and caregivers to contact their child’s pediatrician about the vaccine.

Shipments of the vaccine began arriving at pediatrician’s offices on Monday, when they had the opportunity to pre-order it two weeks ago in anticipation of FDA and CDC decisions. Moderna requires two doses, while Pfizer requires three, each separated by three weeks after the first dose and eight weeks after the second.

The CDC recommends vaccination for all children, whether or not they previously had COVID.

Pacillo’s entire family was crushed by COVID at Christmas, so “we loosened up a bit after that, but now we’re getting nervous again, so it’s perfect timing.” Everyone gets it back, so it’s only a matter of time.”

The mask debate continues

Ashley Riley, Pacillo’s neighbor, is a mother to twins, three, and hosted the nationwide mask debate at her home.

“They still don’t like their masks,” she said, laughing. “First it’s like, ‘I want to wear my dinosaur mask;’ wear it for five minutes and then, ‘Eh, I’m done.’”

Mask rules for young children vary from place to place and while the family have never been told to leave because of this, for Riley it’s about protecting her sons – who haven’t had COVID yet.

“Up until now we’ve avoided that,” she said, “but that means we don’t know how they’re going to react to it and if they’re in that percentage that’s going to elicit a really bad reaction,” she said.

The winter months were particularly challenging and Riley said she relied on a close-knit group of friends, all of whom have children of the same age, to socialize – as the weather improved she “tried to get boys outside as much as possible “.

Worcester parent Shaun Connolly, whose son is 18 months old, acknowledged the pandemic had certainly changed things, but even without lockdown he doubted things would have been any easier.

“Raising a child in the pandemic is quite a challenge, but so is raising a child in general,” he said, opting instead to focus on the positive. “We were lucky that despite social distancing and masks, he’s still super social.”

“You want your children to be safe, but at what cost?” said Pacillo.

Even something as simple as taking your kids to the grocery store required careful thought. For her part, Riley said she still prefers not to take the twins to the grocery store if she can help it. The vaccine will go a long way in reassuring both mothers.

reluctance to vaccinate

Currently, about 58% of children ages five to 11 in Massachusetts are fully vaccinated, according to state data, indicating hesitation on the part of Bay State parents.

Pacillo said she understands how some parents, especially first-time parents, might be insecure and concerned about the prospect of a bad reaction to a vaccine. A year ago she might have felt similarly, she said, but after seeing her children miss so many things, she encouraged other parents to listen to their pediatrician.

“It wasn’t supposed to be political,” she said, “it’s just so crazy.”

She hopes COVID boosters will become part of the new normal annual vaccine, like the flu shot every fall.

“The benefit outweighs the risk in terms of a vaccine,” Riley said bluntly.

The risk of her children catching COVID and suffering long-term complications from it scares her far more than the short-lived fever and flu-like symptoms of the vaccine. “If my child could not be vaccinated, I would hope that other people would vaccinate their healthy children so mine are safe,” she said.

“I’m not someone to tell parents how to raise kids,” Connolly said, “but I’m someone to tell a person that the more vaccines there are in the world, we’re all safer.”

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