Steven Haskett, M.D.

Meet the Maximizer 

Dr. Steven Haskett talks about how COVID-19 vaccination benefits the community, especially in rural areas where there are fewer hospital beds to go around.  

Steven Haskett, M.D., is a physician with Children’s Physicians in Kearney 

How do you feel COVID-19 has affected the lives of children? 

It has just been tough on kids. Not going to school has had a big effect. It has really upended their routines, their access to nutrition, to care, and for some of them to safe places. It’s really been a struggle for lots of kids just meeting the basic necessities of life. 

Why is it important that kids be vaccinated against COVID-19? 

Kids are in such close proximity in school, and all it takes is one person to come into school with COVID and it’s going to spread very easily. Having kids vaccinated is going to reduce that chance. And again, as we’ve seen, it’s a really big deal for a lot of kids to miss any time at school, so we should take every step we can to avoid that. 

How does vaccinating kids against COVID-19 benefit you personally? 

I have four kids myself. As a dad, getting my kids vaccinated for COVID was a big deal. Just like any parent, I worry about their health and safety anytime they leave my care – will they be okay? What if there’s an accident? So, when the vaccine finally came out and was approved for kids, it was one less thing I had to worry about. I’ve seen enough kids get severely ill with COVID that it was a relief knowing that even if my kids still caught it, the chance of getting severely ill or needing hospitalization was so much lower.  

My three older kids are 17, 14 and 12, so I got them vaccinated in the summer of 2021 as soon as we could. My youngest daughter is eight, so it was tough having to wait that extra six months for them to approve that five to 11 age group. Once that got approved in the fall, we got her in and got her vaccinated as well. It was a relief knowing that everybody in our family was vaccinated. And she loved it too. She understands the dangers of COVID and how easily it can spread through schools, so she was excited to finally be able to get the vaccine too. 

How does vaccinating children affect communities in a positive way?  

This winter, we had lots of people admitted to the hospitals with COVID. When someone is hospitalized with a vaccine-preventable disease like COVID, that’s a bed we can’t use for babies with RSV or dehydration or influenza. Young babies, they’re not eligible for flu shots, and they can get very sick from influenza. And if I have beds being taken up by patients who could have been vaccinated, not hospitalized, it means I don’t have beds for these other patients.  

That’s a big deal here in central Nebraska, because if I don’t have a bed here in Kearney, a lot of times I have to send kids halfway across the state to Lincoln or Omaha. That’s tough for families, because now parents have to figure out transportation back and forth. Sometimes families can’t afford gas or a hotel, and it makes it a lot harder for a family who’s already stressed with having a sick child in the hospital. If there’s anything we can do as individuals to keep ourselves from getting sick and needing a hospital bed, we should do it for the benefit of the community. 

What would you tell a parent who says, “I’m feeling hesitant about the vaccine. Why should my child get vaccinated?”  

I talk every day with parents who are nervous about getting their kids vaccinated. I know it’s tough. We all want to make sure we’re doing the best for our children, and anything unfamiliar can be scary.  

When I talk with parents, we focus on the fact that this is very similar to other vaccines we’ve used in the past. It’s a little different on a microbiologic level, but it’s still the same idea that we’re just giving the body some little bits of information to take and develop immunity. Those bits of information are just there for a short time, and then they’re gone. Now there’s not going to be an issue with severe long-term effects. It’s like other vaccines that kids have been getting for decades – you might have some fever, not feel good for a few days while your system is building that immunity. But once that part is over, then there’s not going to be any other major changes. 

The vaccine is safe. The research shows it. And from what I’ve seen of unvaccinated kids in the hospital, it’s clear to me that it’s worth getting the vaccine to avoid getting ill from COVID. And I know people get concerned that the vaccine doesn’t prevent COVID 100%, but that’s the same with all vaccines. And even if you do catch the illness, you’re not going to get as sick. It just makes sense if we can get everybody vaccinated and keep people from getting sick. It’s a great deal.