History has shown that vaccination can control epidemics and even eradicate diseases such as chickenpox, measles, and polio, to name a few. This cost-effective health tool is now available to protect against COVID-19 in children. But overall, vaccination rates remain low.
According to experts, if all parents decided to vaccinate their children against COVID, the collective immunization shield would be so large that it would be possible to put a practically definitive stop to the virus.
This collective immunization against COVID would add to the natural immunization that is obtained by having had the infection.
It would be an unprecedented vaccination success for child vaccination to replicate globally, which is the ideal goal.
Vaccination in the Americas
In the United States, 48 million children are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. As of July 20, 10.4 million children ages 5 to 11 (37% of eligible children that age) had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 8.5 million (30%) had completed the two-dose schedule.
Since the vaccine’s approval in June to be administered beginning at 6 months of age, 700,000 infants between the ages of six months and four years have received at least one dose. But there are still millions who have not gotten any COVID immunizations.
In Latin America, most countries are in the midst of child vaccination campaigns. Most are immunizing children from the age of 5, but some, such as Argentina, Chile, and Colombia, are immunizing children from the age of 3. The region's population consists of younger people, 23% under the age of 14 and 20% between the ages of 15 and 29, so vaccinating young people is just as important as vaccinating older adults in order to stop transmission.
Although approval of COVID-19 vaccination has been high among adults and teens, parents are hesitant to vaccinate younger children. It is a difficult logic to understand considering that decades of mandatory school vaccinations have proven effective in protecting from outbreaks of infections, some of them deadly.
The American Medical Association (AMA), along with other medical institutions, mention some of the reasons why people should not hesitate to vaccinate children against COVID-19:
1. Children are getting COVID.
Although it is known that coronavirus transmission among children is low compared to adults, this does not mean that they cannot become infected with the virus.
Children account for about 18% of all cases reported in the United States since the pandemic began. Since the beginning of the pandemic through July 2022, 14 million children have tested positive for COVID in the United States. Approximately 6.1 million reported cases occurred in 2022.
2. Children may have long-term cases of COVID.
These can lead to medical consequences that can last for a long time.
3. Minors can be a source of infection.
While most cases of COVID-19 in children are mild, infected children can spread the virus even if they have no symptoms. This is particularly concerning in multigenerational homes, where children are likely to live with older adults who have an increased risk of suffering a severe form of COVID.
4. More vaccinations, higher collective immunity.
This immunity is obtained when a community has a high percentage of people vaccinated, preventing cases from increasing.
5. Limiting transmission.
If an entire community is vaccinated, it makes it harder for the virus to find new "hosts" to infect. This weakens the virus.
6. Preventing the outbreak of variants.
If more people are vaccinated, not only is the transmission of the virus limited, but also the possibility of mutation and the appearance of new variants.
7. Protecting the weakest.
There are children and adults who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons. If the community they live in and the school they attend have a high vaccination rate, they will be more protected because the virus will spread less.
8. Booster dose.
Vaccinated children approaching the age of 12 may get a booster shot and possibly additional vaccines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends that children ages 5 to 11 who have moderately or severely compromised immune systems receive an additional dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine 28 days after getting their two-dose series of Pfizer-BioNTech.
Vaccination is still the best way to "trap" the virus so that it does not continue to infect more people. The more people are vaccinated, the more likely it is that we can achieve a "collective" or "herd" immunity, a kind of barrier to human immune systems that weakens the virus.
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