America’s fight against COVID-19 reached another milestone Tuesday as the nation’s youngest children became eligible for the vaccine. This was a long-awaited moment that should bring relief to millions of American families. Now parents need to do their part by taking this opportunity to protect their children, their households and their communities.
Tuesday’s rollout makes children younger than 5 years old eligible for the shots, an achievement a year-and-a-half in the making. That should ease the anxiety of millions of Americans who have looked to fill this critical gap in the nation’s public health response. This was the last age demographic in America to become eligible for the vaccines, and federal approval in recent days means stronger protection against the virus for some 18 million kids nationwide.
This new phase gives parents a chance to use the summer break to inoculate their children before vacations, preschool or other communal gatherings crank up again between now and fall. Last week, federal health authorities endorsed a three-dose Pfizer vaccine for infants and children 6 months to 4 years old, and a two-dose Moderna vaccine for kids 6 months to age 5. The Pfizer shots are one-tenth of an adult dose; the Moderna shots are one-quarter of an adult dose. Pfizer says a preliminary analysis shows its shots are 80% effective against symptomatic illness. Moderna said its vaccine is about 51% effective in preventing sickness in younger toddlers and about 37% effective in kids 2 to 5 years old.
Children mercifully have been spared from the much greater risks that COVID has posed to older Americans. But that is no excuse to avoid getting children their shots or for succumbing to the false information that can cause delays. More than 30,000 U.S. children ages 4 and under have been hospitalized with COVID-19 during the pandemic, according to U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Over 400 have died. These vaccines do a good job of preventing severe symptoms, serious illness and hospitalization. And they are a first line of defense in protecting America’s youngest from the still-unexplained effects of long COVID.
Florida parents should not allow Gov. Ron DeSantis’ political posturing over vaccines to weaken their resolve to better protect their families and communities. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics both recommend that children get the shots. While Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo, a DeSantis appointee, discouraged healthy children from getting vaccinated, several authors of studies he cited told the Tampa Bay Times that Ladapo took their research out of context, and they maintained the vaccines were safe and effective. This is par for the course for the DeSantis administration. But this far into the pandemic, Floridians have no shortage of credible sources to turn to, and no excuse for failing to make informed choices.
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Health care providers, nonprofits and civic groups need to help spread the word and make access to these vaccines as convenient as possible. America has a coveted opportunity to protect the youngest among us. Let’s leave no one behind in the fight against COVID.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman Paul Tash. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.