How to think about vaccinating your children against COVID-19

A dear reader asked:

I am having trouble deciding whether to vaccinate my son, who has just turned 5. I understand the science and he is up to date with all of his other vaccines. But my protective instincts make me hesitate about this one. How can I make a decision that is in my son’s best interests and feel good?

Dear hesitant,

You are not alone – many parents struggle with this decision. In a Kaiser Family Foundation poll, only 27% of parents said they were eager to vaccinate their children against COVID-19, while 38% were hesitant, wanting to “wait and see,” and 30% said they were ‘they wouldn’t vaccinate. .

First, I commend you for wanting to do what is in the best interests of your child. The bottom line is: do what’s best for them. But, you are right; in a way, this decision seems extra-difficult. Here are seven ideas about what’s going on in our brains and some ideas to consider.

  1. Recognize that your anxiety is abnormally heightened due to pandemic stress. Since the start of 2020, our nervous system has been on high alert due to the threat this virus poses to our health, jobs, finances, families and social life. This pandemic hypervigilance – your brain always searching for threats – is probably making you more anxious and uncertain than it warrants. You’re not more likely to make a bad decision, you’re just more likely to worry about it. When you feel anxious, watch this carefully, then graciously excuse the hypervigilance for playing a part in your decision-making: “Thanks, hypervigilance, for trying to protect us, but you can go now. I have this !
  2. It is normal to fear the consequences of acting more than the consequences of being passive. This bias in our brain is the reason why so many parents feel more anxious about actively subjecting their child to the vaccine than passively doing nothing. Even when parents fear the virus will hurt, it’s easy to think, “It’s not my fault, it’s just bad luck” or “It’s God’s will.” To counter this bias against action, watch what happens when you create your own mandate and embrace the idea that “everyone is supposed to get vaccinated; there really is no decision to be made. In fact, many families, social groups and workplaces have immunization mandates. In this way, refusing the vaccination becomes the active route, forcing you to step back and reinforcing your sense of responsibility for choosing to keep your son vulnerable to the virus.
  3. Our brains have evolved to make decisions based on personal experience, not research data. Without personal experience with this virus, a pandemic, and mRNA vaccines, you may not be able to have a clear idea of ​​the right decision. Or maybe you or your son has had a mild case in the past and you think the virus just isn’t that bad. Sadly, during a pandemic that continues to fill hospitals and morgues, and with new variations on the horizon, it is safer than ever to make a decision based on medical research, not personal experience.
  4. Rely on your child’s doctor and public health officials for advice. When the pandemic started, doctors didn’t know much more about this virus than the rest of us. But as research studies accumulate and the evidence becomes clear, your doctor’s medical education and work means they can answer your specific questions and concerns. So make an appointment for your son and make your list of questions. Public health agencies in your county or state are also good sources of medical information and advice. Remember, it is not your job to become a medical expert just because you are raising a child during a pandemic. Continue to turn to trained and knowledgeable professionals for advice on how to keep your son healthy.
  5. Look at the numbers and do the math. Over the past 2 years, the virus has sickened hundreds of millions of people around the world, killing millions, and 30 percent have developed chronic illness (long COVID). Medical research shows vaccines are extremely effective at preventing hospitalizations and deaths, protecting against lengthy COVIDs, and preventing the spread of the virus. However, serious side effects from the vaccine are extremely rare. In other words, the virus is far more dangerous to many more millions of people than is the vaccine. So if your son is not vaccinated he is much more likely to have a bad outcome. Also, if your son goes unvaccinated and becomes infected, he can infect others, even if they have been vaccinated. Although people who have been vaccinated are much less likely to suffer from serious illness, it can still be an unpleasant ordeal. And if he spends time with his grandparents or others vulnerable to the ravages of this disease, it could turn into a fatal ordeal. This is another important consideration that you should check with your doctor.
  6. Resist getting caught up in the controversy created by conspiracy theorists. The internet is full of conflicting information, some of which is backed up by scientific research and some invented by crooks who prey on people’s fears and make money out of people’s desperation. Unfortunately, in times of chaos people tend to be more vulnerable to conspiracy theories when they seek answers and try to maintain control over their lives. As a result, there is controversy and little social consensus on how to stay safe, and many parents struggle to filter the noise. The key is to stick to the medical facts and get past the madness instead of getting sucked into it.
  7. Don’t procrastinate. Finally, if you are inclined to make immunization the right decision to keep your child healthy, consider the value of doing it now rather than later. Yes, he is young, but if he is vaccinated you don’t have to go back over this problem or worry about his possible exposure in school or around the world, or whether he is contagious with his diseases. relatives. He wins; the virus loses.

As you reign in your hypervigilance, consult with the medical experts you know and trust, and carefully determine what is in your son’s best interests, you will make a decision that will make you happy.


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