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Families and Minority Health Professionals Navigate COVID-19 Vaccines as the World Reopens

By Dena Vang

Dena Vang  
Dena Vang  

Thabiti Boone is both a parent and a grandparent. His daughter is a nurse on the frontlines, and his son-in-law is a truck driver with health challenges andhas not yet taken the COVID-19vaccine. It has been more thanone year since Boone has seen his grandchildren. His daughter’s family has been working through virtual schooling and is actively taking COVID-19safety precautions.  

As the world begins to open again, parents, grandparents, and caregivers are learning to navigate the challenges that come with COVID-19 safety in order to keep children and loved ones safe. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) current updated public health guidelines state that fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear masks outside or inside. This decision has parents wondering what to do with their children who are not vaccinated and how to confront their own hesitations about COVID-19 vaccines.  

In a recent webinar hosted by Black Doctors Against COVID-19 (BCAC),  Boone shared his concerns about family dynamics and vaccinations for children.  

“Yes, I’m a parent, but my daughter is close to 40. Yes, I’m a grandparent. The oldest [grandchild] is 14, next is 12, and my granddaughter is 5,” said Boone. “What happens when a parent has a child with some health challenges, particularly not a strong immune system? What do they do in respect to making decisions for that child to be vaccinated? How can I help my daughter in terms of decision-making? What does my daughter do with these different dynamics in her home in terms of making the right decisions around the vaccine?” 

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Dr. Samira L. Brown, primary care pediatrician and co-founder of Little Lives PPE, and Dr. Melissa Clarke, an expert in population health and co-founder of BCAC, were among the panel of minority health professionals who shared insight into children receiving the vaccine and whether a compromised immune system is a contraindication to getting vaccinated.  

“Currently, the only contraindication to getting the vaccine is if you are allergic to one of the components,” said Dr. Brown. “You want to talk to your pediatrician, and we would definitely recommend that you vaccinate those children [who are eligible] because they are going to be at potentially increased risk for the complications of COVID. Really until then or even after [getting vaccinated] just for safety, you can continue to mask, continue to distance, and try to find out as much as you can about those around you if they’re vaccinated or not,” she added. “If you’re not sure, it’s always safest to assume that they’re not and continue all of those preventative measures. Vaccination, certainly, is going to be a key to help them have a level of immunity that they wouldn’t have.” 

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is available for everyone ages 12 years and older. In the clinical trial for children 12 through 15 years old, no safety concerns were identified with the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. The clinical trial also showed that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 100 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 with symptoms in children 12 through 15 years old.  

“Children do not have as much agency as to where they go and what they do. So when school is closed, they are basically in lockdown at home,” said Dr. Clarke. “By getting vaccinated, it’s giving them agency once again to reenter society. They see it very clearly as a way forward, where we as adults feel like we have more a choice in terms of the restrictions that have happened to us over this past year,” she added. “I think it’s a really important point that for our kids this is a way forward to reengage and get back to what they really missed out on. It may be hurting them in terms of mental health and maturation process.”   

BCAC recommends that parents talk to their child’s pediatrician or nurse to learn more about COVID-19 vaccines or visit www.cdc.gov/coronavirus

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To watch the BCAC live stream event in its entirety, visit BlackDoctor.org YouTube Channel.  

Dena Vang is the Public Relations Manager at Creative Marketing Resources, a strategic marketing agency in Milwaukee and a partner of the BCAC. 

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