Above: The author with her daughter celebrating her first birthday.
Recently, my one-year-old Ellie celebrated her doljabi, a Korean tradition that celebrates a child’s bright future. During this traditional first birthday ceremony, children are placed in front of many special items, each symbolizing what their family hopes will be prosperous and healthy years to come. I’ll admit, as a public health specialist during the COVID-19 pandemic, I secretly hoped that when Ellie reached for the item that caught her eye, she chose the yarn, signifying a long life.
Like parents across our state, I want my child to be healthy and well, and that is why I am passionate about sharing why I chose to vaccinate Ellie against COVID-19. Whether I’m talking to friends and neighbors, or sharing our story in an op-ed in the San Francisco Chronicle, I want people to know why vaccination is so important for a young child like mine.
I want to protect Ellie against COVID-19, one of the leading causes of child death.
Ellie received her first COVID-19 vaccine dose a few weeks ago and had no adverse reaction. In fact, she cried for about 30 seconds, and we carried on with the rest of our day. She also received immunity when I got my first dose while pregnant, a decision I made after looking at data and consulting with my doctor.
As the Senior Advisor for the California Department of Public Health’s vaccine task force, I see COVID-19 infection trends, research, and data every day. I’m keenly aware that hospitalizations for kids under age 4 were five times higher during the Omicron surge than when the Delta variant was circulating. I also know that one in five kids who were hospitalized with the virus also were admitted to the ICU. During COVID surges, my husband shared horror stories from the hospital where he works, telling me about young patients in the ICU fighting for their lives.
As is true for all parents, my child is the light of my life. Before she was eligible for vaccination, I worried about Ellie getting COVID and the potential for serious outcomes. That is why I was eager to get her vaccinated as soon as possible.
Not to mention, we live with my parents in a multigenerational household. As a lung cancer survivor, my father is at risk for serious consequences from COVID-19. To keep him as safe as possible, it was critically important that all of us, including Ellie, have the protection of vaccination. We are also careful to wear masks, limit interactions with non-family members and isolate when we don’t feel well, but we know our vaccination status is a critical component of our family’s COVID-safety plan.
For all these reasons and more, I’m thankful to have these thoroughly researched and tested vaccines available to all Californians, ages 6 months and up. Not only are they authorized by the FDA and endorsed by the CDC, but they have also been reviewed independently by our Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup in partnership with Washington, Oregon and Nevada – an extra step that should offer peace of mind to all.
As a mother, a daughter, and a Californian, I am passionate about getting everyone vaccinated against COVID-19 as soon as they are eligible – but especially our youngest children.
Our children are our future. Let’s do all that we can today by getting them vaccinated to keep them safe from the worst outcomes of COVID-19 – namely, serious illness, hospitalization, or death.
Call your pediatrician or community health clinic to get your child vaccinated or go to MyTurn.ca.gov or call 833-422-4255 to find a nearby vaccine.
Sonya Logman Harris is the Senior Advisor to California’s Vaccinate ALL 58 campaign and oversees the COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force’s statewide outreach and education efforts. She previously served as chief of staff for the 2020 Census in California.