Do you disagree with your co-parent about getting your toddler to get the COVID vaccine? Here’s what experts say.

Five-year-old Renan Rojas is sitting on his mother Daniela Cantano's lap as he receives the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine from registered nurse Jillian at Rady's Children's Hospital in San Diego.

Five-year-old Renan Rojas receives the Pfizer vaccine in San Diego. (Reuters / Mike Blake)

Ever since an advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last week recommended that COVID-19 shots be made available to children ages 5 to 11, it has become clear that vaccination of children in this age group is a hot topic. -button-topic. Some parents have flooded social media with posts about how excited they are about vaccinating their children, while others have made it clear that they think it is a bad idea. That debate has only intensified now that the CDC has officially recommended that children in this age group receive the COVID vaccine.

The decision on whether to vaccinate children has even extended to some households where parents may disagree on what is best.

Jené Sena’s daughter has just turned 12, and she tells Yahoo Life that she and her ex-husband disagree on whether or not she should be vaccinated. “Our daughter had COVID just before her 12th birthday less than 90 days ago, and he insists she be vaccinated because he has a new baby on the way into the home,” Sena says. “I’m not confident until it gets FDA approval for that age group, and I also know she has antibodies now, so she’s somewhat protected.”

Currently, the FDA has granted an emergency use permit (EUA) for the Pfizer vaccine to children ages 5 and up, which means the vaccine is recommended for these children. However, an emergency use permit is different from full FDA approval – which requires more time and data. The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine received full FDA approval for individuals aged 16 years and up from August. It was first made available under the EUA in December 2020.

Sena says she and her former partner have not reached a solution yet, but they have planned a telemedicine appointment with their pediatrician to talk about it. “To be clear, I’m not anti-wax – I’m vaccinated myself,” Sena says. “I just’m not so sure about taking that step yet for my child when it’s not FDA approved for use in children yet.”

Sara, who is referred to by a pseudonym for privacy reasons, tells Yahoo Life that she and her husband disagree on whether to vaccinate their 5-year-old son right now. “I want my son to be vaccinated,” she says. “The data looks good and we both want to feel more confident that he’s living a more normal life.” But Sara’s husband is one of the third parents who wants to wait and see how other children do with the vaccine before giving it to their child. “We are both vaccinated and have not had any problems and there is no indication that our son will have a problem,” Sara said. “There’s just so much fear around the vaccine right now that I think it makes my husband hesitant. I do not understand why he will wait.”

But they are not the only parents struggling to make a decision to vaccinate their children against COVID-19. “I get it all the time – I have many families where the parents are divided due to vaccination,” says Dr. Danelle Fisher, a pediatrician and head of pediatrics at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, for Yahoo Life.

Clinical psychologist Thea Gallagher, an assistant professor at NYU and co-host of Mind in view podcast, Yahoo Life tells that this can be a “tricky” thing to navigate for parents. “It can definitely cause tension,” she says. “For most parents, their top priority is the safety of their children. When conversations involve children, it escalates the feeling of the conversation.” Gallagher says “efforts are also feeling high,” as people have been living with a global pandemic for nearly two years, and that children now make up nearly 25 percent of COVID-19 cases.

Gallagher recommends that parents look to “trusted medical and scientific specialists” for guidance. “One thing we keep hearing is, ‘I do my own research, but there’s a lot of misinformation out there,'” she says.

You can also have a conversation with your child’s pediatrician. “I’m always happy to have a conversation,” Fisher says, noting that she usually starts things off with her parents by saying, “Tell me your concerns.”

“I could sit there and talk for hours about the vaccine, but I want to focus on what it is that makes parents nervous,” she says. “Sometimes they have specific questions that I can address and refer to good, reputable sources on the subject like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, which is very clear and easy to read.”

From there, it is important for parents to discuss what they have learned, says Melissa Santos, a pediatric psychologist at Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. “Really evaluate this information and ask yourself if it makes sense to vaccinate your child,” she says. “Balance it with your life: How do you want your days to be?”

Clinical psychologist John Mayer, author of Family Fit: Find your balance in life, Yahoo Life says it’s crucial for parents to talk – and listen – to each other. “Really communicate,” he says. “That means every parent has to be heard for their views and really listen to the other parent’s views.” He recommends that parents “check your anger at the door in these discussions and be open to what facts your co-parent is saying.”

But while much emphasis has been placed on conducting a personal risk-benefit analysis for each family, says Dr. Thomas Russo, professor and head of infectious diseases at University at Buffalo in New York, told Yahoo Life that it just makes sense to vaccinate your child.

“The data looks good and the efficiency of 90 percent is excellent,” he says. He also points out that the risk of myocarditis – a major concern for parents – is significantly higher when receiving COVID-19 than when receiving the vaccine. “There were not even cases of myocarditis in the group that was tested for the vaccine for 5- to 11-year-olds,” he says. Russo also notes that there is nothing about the vaccine or the way it works that suggests it could interfere with fertility – another concern that is often raised among parents.

Fisher agrees. “The risk of getting COVID disease is much higher than the potential risks of the COVID vaccine,” she says. “We have patients, even as children, who are getting ‘long COVID’. It’s brutal. The only way we can stop this pandemic is vaccination.”

Fisher says she likes to provide information so each family can make the “right choice” for themselves. But, she adds, “The right choice is vaccination.”

If you and your co-parent are still struggling to reach a decision after gathering information, and it puts a lot of strain on your relationship, Gallagher recommends seeing a couple counselor. While a counselor will not tell you what to do, “seeking out a professional can help get you back on the same page,” Gallagher says.

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