HOUSTON — Twice last year, Margaret Schulte and her husband, Jason Abercrombie, traveled 11 hours round-trip to Louisiana from their home in Tulsa, Okla., in the hopes of vaccinating their children, who were 2 and 4, against the coronavirus.
The only way they could get shots for their children — among the more than 19 million Americans under 5 years old who are not yet eligible for vaccinations — was to take part in a clinical trial. They signed up hoping that a successful vaccine would result in some form of prepandemic life.
It hasn’t worked out that way.
According to the company, the Pfizer trial their children took part in did not yield promising results. Vaccines have not been developed from other sources. Moderna has yet not released the results from its pediatric trials.
Ms. Schulte, Mr. Abercrombie, and many other parents are stuck in an excruciating limbo due to a surge Omicron cases. They have to deal with child care crises and day care closures while the rest of the world seems eager to move on.
“I am actually home with my daughter right now,” Ms. Schulte, 41, who owns a garden store and is eight months pregnant, said when reached by phone this week. There had been a positive case at her 2-year-old’s preschool. “This is our fourth or fifth time being quarantined,” she said. “There’s no getting work done while she’s around.”
Many families with children younger than 5 have had to make complicated calculations due to the recent rise in coronavirus cases. This is a population that is prone for anxiety-provoking symptoms like runny noses or coughs.
It is difficult to find tests. Day care providers are strained. According to research from the University of California Berkeley (UCB), there are approximately 110,000 less people working in child-care now than there were in February 2020.
Parents of young children find themselves back at home, staring out the windows, wondering if the world is concerned about the seemingly impossible balancing acts. Child care interruptions are increasing.
“The stress just comes from seeing that the rest of society has kind of moved on, and then parents of young kids and the young kids themselves seem to be forgotten,” said Becky Quinn, a lawyer in New York. She and her husband were stuck in Brooklyn this week, with no child care and both children.
“First we got the notification on Saturday that the baby’s was closed. We were like, OK, we can make that work,” Ms. Quinn said. “Then on Sunday we heard that the 3-year-old’s class was closed. I just laughed at that point.”
She and her husband can work remotely, something she acknowledged is not possible for everyone. She said that her bosses were understanding. It has been difficult.
Many parents have had to make difficult choices, especially for women, due to the repeated closing of day care centers and classrooms as well as the realization that a vaccine could still be many months away.
Aria Carter, a rural Vermont resident, has resigned from her position as director of admissions at a school due to child care difficulties. She now reads psychological evaluations for admissions. This is a role that she can do at odd hours, while her 1-year old son is sleeping or her 4-year-old is at school.
“I can’t get him in day care, there’s no space,” Ms. Carter said of her toddler. “I don’t have any family where I live. It’s hard.” But she added that the spread of the Omicron variant meant she would not have felt comfortable putting him in day care anyway, and that she had enjoyed her time at home with him.
Shaneka Adewuyi is an office administrator for Tulsa Police Department. She said that her day care center was closed for six weeks due to a spike in cases. Ms. Adewuyi is overwhelmed by the challenge of managing two young children (ages 1 and 2), as well as a virtual school student (9-year-old) and her job.
“It takes a toll on my mental health,” she said. “But the babies need to eat, they have to be rocked to sleep, they need a diaper change.”
Some parents believe that the abnormality of the pandemic started with pregnancies that were influenced by concerns about the effects of vaccinations or infection. Routines have been altered so much that many of their children can’t recall or don’t know what they were like before the existence of vaccines.
39-year-old Mr. Abercrombie said that he was shocked when Andy, his 4-year old, refused to play with other children in a playground. “He said they might have the sickness,” Mr. Abercrombie recalled. “How is that, to grow up if you think other children might give them the sickness?”
Young children are often unable to access vaccines, which are an important part of the federal response. Although shots are available for children 5 and older, vaccines for children 4 and under may take months to arrive.
Many parents choose not to give vaccines to their young children even though they are readily available. Vaccination rates remain very low — under 20 percent — among the youngest eligible group, children who are 5 to 11 years old.
Doctors say that children younger than adults are at a lower risk of becoming seriously ill following a coronavirus virus infection than adults. Although hospitalizations for children have increased, overall hospitalizations are still very low.
In Austin, Texas, Kyle and Tasha Countryman count themselves among the lucky: They both have jobs that are busier than ever — in construction and furniture sales — and the day care where they send their children, who are 1 and 2, has closed certain classes only a couple of times during the pandemic.
They were very careful when Ms. Countryman, 36 was pregnant. “None of us wanted to get sick before I delivered,” she said. She stated that her goal now is to give her children a normal life. This means visiting family, friends, and cousins and going to places where masks don’t need to be worn.
“We do that so our kids can see other kids’ faces,” Ms. Countryman said. “I don’t want to go to some of these indoor places if it’s going to be very, ‘Stand here and everybody wear masks.’ Those are not the places that we’re actively seeking out to spend our time. We’re going to more restaurants, breweries, activities that we can do outside.”
She stated that her husband and she would not be comfortable with coronavirus vaccinations for their children immediately and that they would want to ensure that the risks of side effects were not outweighed by the benefits.
Ms. Schulte was a mother to two children who participated in the Pfizer vaccine trials. She says that the promise of a better vaccine has been replaced by more waiting.
“They’ve already told us that we’ll need to come back for a third dose because it didn’t generate enough of an immune response,” she said.
“We had hoped that by now we would learn that one of our children was fully vaccinated and we could move on,” she said. “It would have been nice, but a trial is a trial.”
Source: NY Times