Too many messages are still centered on trying to frighten people into compliance by arguing about worst-case scenarios and convincing them that things are as dangerous as ever. They amplify every new variant and predict future worsening. They point to charts of the unvaccinated and vaccinated and marvel at the differences in deaths.
Such charts almost always, however, depict outcomes that don’t easily apply to young children. If the goal is to convince parents to take action to prevent harm to their children, this won’t work.
The risk of Covid infection today is not what it was two years ago (or even last year). Hospitals continue to admit people infected with Covid, but many of them are incidentally so, and the intensive care units are relatively empty. Parents have seen many of their children, and their children’s friends, get Covid and do fine, adding to a belief that this isn’t nearly as dangerous as they were led to believe. This perception, when it comes to their children, isn’t necessarily wrong. If public health advocates want to change minds, then they are going to have to change their strategies to accept this safer reality.
Older people continue to be at the highest risk of death from Covid. Arguing that they needed to get vaccinated, and more, to save their lives made sense. Saying that childhood deaths from Covid are somewhat more common than influenza may be true, but too many parents don’t think influenza is a problem either. Many do not vaccinate their children against that, let alone mask and isolate them.
Some of the information is indeed confusing. Several European countries are not recommending vaccination against Covid in young children because they believe they are not at high enough risk of disease. I disagree with that decision, because even though it’s rare, youngsters do die of it (as they do from influenza). I have no problem recommending we vaccinate them against the flu, too.
What’s more, there are other outcomes from Covid that warrant intervention, and that’s most likely a better argument for childhood immunization. Children who are vaccinated have a lower chance of getting sick at all, and if they do get sick, they are likely to have a lower chance of getting severely ill, developing MIS-C or being hospitalized. They probably have a lower chance of being affected by long Covid, too. Such outcomes are far more common in children than death.
Related: Dane County Madison public health mandates.