Hundreds of Nebraska Health Care Providers Say Now Is the Time to Vaccinate Kids Against COVID-19

The North Platte Telegraph | Mar 21, 2022

Hundreds of Nebraska physicians and health care providers have signed a statement of support for vaccinating Nebraska’s kids ages 5 and older against COVID-19. By signing this statement of support, health care experts are sending a message: Get children vaccinated and contact your health care provider to answer vaccine questions as soon as you can.

The 236 physicians and health care providers represent 17 different Nebraska communities. They have joined forces as part of the Max the Vax initiative, an effort to maximize vaccination rates among children to keep Nebraska kids protected, healthy and in school. The effort is led by the Nebraska Department of Education and Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

More children are getting COVID-19

A rising concern among Nebraska physicians is the growing number of pediatric COVID-19 cases. Children and adolescents make up over 30% of new COVID-19 infections, and COVID-19 is now a top 10 cause of death for children in the U.S.

“We’re seeing a trend; kids who are not yet vaccinated are getting COVID-19 and becoming severely ill and hospitalized,” said Kari Simonsen, M.D., an infectious disease specialist and pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital & Medical Center. “Vaccinating kids against COVID-19 benefits our whole community because there will be fewer illnesses in children and fewer illnesses in the adults that they are around.”

While case numbers have continued to fluctuate, previous spikes of COVID-19 cases have caused disruptions in care for individuals with non-COVID-19 health needs. As more families become vaccinated against COVID-19 to prevent severe illness, it alleviates strain on community health care systems.

“If I didn’t believe in the vaccine, I wouldn’t have gotten it for my children. It reduces the spread of COVID-19 and the risk of severe symptoms. It also is safe for children. There has been plenty of research on it in the last two years,” said Anna Warnes, APRN, who serves as a family medical practitioner in Crete and Wilber, Nebraska.

Natural immunity isn’t enough

Sharon Stoolman, M.D., a pediatric hospitalist at Children’s, said she frequently hears a few misconceptions from parents about COVID-19 and vaccination. She wants to be clear — immunity after a COVID-19 infection and the body’s natural immunity are not enough to fight the virus and its emerging variants.

“I’d equate it to your protection in a hurricane. If we were in a regular rainstorm, your natural immunity might be enough of an umbrella for you to weather the storm. But in a pandemic with large amounts of the virus in the community, we need more than just an umbrella. We’re going to need a poncho, rain pants and boots because the natural immunity you have could not be enough for the latest variant. So, we are urging families to get vaccinated even if you had COVID-19 last year because we need that added layer of protection,” Dr. Stoolman said.

Dr. Stoolman and her colleagues know while there is no way to truly predict who will become severely ill from COVID-19, vaccinated children and teens have fewer instances of severe symptoms, complications and COVID-related illnesses, such as MIS-C. In addition, any vaccine side effects are short-term and complications are infrequent.

Health care providers are the absolute best source for health information

“When folks are hesitant about getting the vaccine, the first thing I recommend is to talk to a trusted health care provider who knows them best. Those questions and concerns are usually very personal and related to individual health conditions,” said Dr. Simonsen. “I want people to talk with a health provider that knows them well. But I also encourage everyone to ask those questions and go forward with getting the vaccine. It’s safe. It’s been delivered to millions in the U.S. at this point, including millions of kids, and we need to get more of our kids vaccinated to help get through this pandemic.”

Research on the COVID-19 vaccine began in 2003 thanks to the SARS virus, COVID-19’s cousin. The process used to develop the vaccine in 2020 was previously designed to make and test vaccines quickly in case of an infectious disease pandemic.

“We have a long history of vaccinating kids to keep them healthy — from polio to measles and pertussis. As physicians, we know vaccine safety. We know the long-term side effects, short-term side effects and what to expect,” said Dr. Stoolman.

“We understand that the vaccine can cause anxiety. That is why we’re working to provide resources, support and education for families with questions and concerns. We are here for you,” said Emily Braun, M.D., with OneWorld Community Health Centers.

“In addition to masking, washing your hands and social distancing, vaccination helps keep families safe and keeps kids in school. It remains an urgent to-do for those who are eligible for the vaccine,” said Chanda Chacón, MPH, FACHE, Children’s president and CEO.

Health care providers say getting vaccinated is the best thing families can do right now to play a part in bringing life back to a type of normalcy after over two years of disruption and uncertainty.

“So many things were not given a second thought two years ago, like going to a basketball game or a music concert, visiting grandparents, going to school and feeling safe. Now every little decision we make in our children’s lives, every little experience they have is altered by COVID-19,” said Warnes. “Having kids vaccinated benefits our communities in that it allows us the freedom to thrive again. It allows for the activities we had before. Businesses and schools can stay open. The vaccine is a gateway to freedom for our communities and for those who are vaccinated.” contains a complete list of vaccination locations, helpful resources and a downloadable handout. In addition, the website and flyers are available in several languages, including English, Spanish and Arabic.

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*Children under 5 are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine (as of June 2022).