COVID vaccines help stop one of the top five causes of death in children
COVID vaccines help stop one of the top five causes of death in children

COVID vaccines help stop one of the top five causes of death in children

Recently my 1 year old got his first dose off Vaccine against covid-19. Ellie was a trooper who only cried for about 30 seconds after the nurse administered the dose. She jumped around the house as soon as we got home.

I got my first dose while I was pregnant to protect Ellie and me as the immunity I received was transferred safely to her. I gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby and Ellie did not respond to the first dose she was given.

Of course, my decisions to get both of us vaccinated were made only after researching the data and consulting with my doctor.

As a senior advisor to the California Department of Public Health’s vaccine task force, I am inundated with trends in coronavirus infection, surrounded by research and data day in and day out. I have learned that COVID-19 is one of the top five causes of child death. During last winter’s omicron surge, COVID-19 hospitalizations for children ages 4 and under was five times higher than when the delta variant circulated earlier – and 1 in 5 children admitted with the virus were admitted to the intensive care unit. My husband also works in healthcare where he hears cases of ICU patients fighting for their lives.

These are all constant reminders of how COVID-19 continues to ravage families and why we must continue to look out for each other.

Knowing these facts firsthand had made me anxious while I was pregnant and during Ellie’s infancy. As parents, we want to do everything we can to protect the proverbial light of our lives. I felt helpless without a vaccine in Ellie’s sensitive first year.

That concern for loved ones spills over into the home we share with my parents. My mother takes care of Ellie while my husband and I work and my father is very vulnerable to the most serious consequences of COVID-19. Years ago he was diagnosed with lung cancer and his surgical treatment left him with about 75% lung capacity.

Like other multigenerational households, we have taken extraordinary care to keep ourselves and each other protected from the virus—masking, isolating if we are unwell, limiting interactions with non-family members, and receiving all eligible vaccine doses. We are extra careful to avoid places where the coronavirus can circulate. Unfortunately, our family has missed out on a lot of activities.

That’s why I was thrilled when vaccines for all family members finally became available. I was heartened to know that thousands of infants and toddlers as young as 6 months old were part of robust clinical trials that demonstrated the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness for our youngest children.

I feel fortunate to live in a country that thoroughly researches and tests vaccines before they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—and for California’s extra layer of review through an independent panel in cooperation with Washington, Oregon and Nevada, which examines the data.

In fact, the COVID-19 vaccine is just one of many documented vaccinations that help keep my toddler healthy by protecting her from infectious diseases like whooping cough, measles, and flu, among others.

Now that our entire family has been vaccinated, we have a newfound peace of mind knowing we’ve done everything we can to keep each other healthy. My parents are free to embrace Ellie with less worry and she can confidently spend more time with others outside of our household.

We are among just under 29 million Californians who have been vaccinated against COVID-19. Nearly 67% of the state’s children ages 12 to 17 and more than 36% of those 5 to 11 have received doses of these safe and effective vaccines. This is good news, as research has shown that the vaccine protects children from the worst outcomes of COVID-19, including hospitalization, prolonged COVID, childhood multisystem inflammatory syndrome, and death.

On Ellie’s first birthday, we celebrated her doljabi, a Korean tradition that determines one’s destiny. As we watched her choose from a myriad of items before her, I secretly hoped she would choose the yarn that signifies longevity. Of course, we knew we’d be happy no matter what she chose, especially knowing she’s better protected in her early years. We have so much to celebrate.

If you or other members of your family have not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, now is a good time to consider the tools available, including the recently approved Novavax vaccine—a new option for adults that uses a protein-based technology.

Whether you want your children vaccinated against COVID-19 is an important decision for all parents and carers to make. As a parent, I encourage you to discuss any questions you have with your child’s health care provider. If you’re ready to take the step toward whole-family protection against COVID-19, call your child’s provider or health clinic to get your child vaccinated. Or go to or call 833-422-4255 to find a vaccination site near you.

Sonya Logman Harris is a senior advisor for California’s Vaccinate ALL 58 campaign and oversees the statewide outreach and education efforts of the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force. She previously served as Chief of Staff for the 2020 California Census.

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