“They said so many things on the internet that I was afraid to vaccinate my children,” says Hilma Barrera, a Guatemalan mother who overcame myths and misconceptions to protect her children’s health from Covid-19.
Hilma, 43, says a neighbor told her that her children had “very strong” vomiting and diarrhea.
And although she says that it is her right to vaccinate her children or not, at their school they gave her the option to do so, but they would be subjected to weekly tests.
“I saw that it was convenient and I decided to get vaccinated,” he says. “I realized the logic of protecting them, even though we hadn’t seen their pediatrician.”
She hesitated to get vaccinated herself, until she had no other choice. The owners of the houses she cleans told her that if she was not vaccinated, she would lose her job.
“All the people said that the vaccine was a thing of the devil and there were many contradictions,” recalls Hilma. “They said they were going to put a chip on us, because the government wanted to know everything about us; Now I realize that all those things were not true.”
Since November, California launched a vaccination program for children 5-11 years of age, after the review of the federal process by the Scientific Safety Review Task Force of several states in the Western United States and the conclusion that the Pfizer- BioNTech was safe and effective for children 5 years and older.
In addition to Pfizer, the vaccine from the pharmaceutical company Moderna, now approved for younger children (0 to 5 years old), is now available to all children in California and has already generated new misinformation.
Breaking myths and barriers
However, the focus of state health authorities is to motivate parents who are choosing not to vaccinate their children. It is that, in California there are 9 million children and the vaccination rate is only 30 percent (2.7 million).
“Among Latinos, the vaccination level is around 39%,” said Yurina Melara, press secretary for multi-ethnic affairs at the California Department of Public Health. “That percentage is very low.”
The problem also lies in the fact that parents have refused to inoculate their children, in part, because, at present, vaccination does not represent a mandate.
The CPDH spokeswoman considered that the myths among the population and the disinformation that exists in social networks have been primary factors for the poor response.
“These vaccines have been used for more than 20 years and in two decades no side effects were recorded. [negativos] in children,” he said.
However, the interest of the health authorities is to warn the population about the risk of death if the little ones are not vaccinated.
So far, 39 child deaths have been recorded from a disease that is preventable.
“Half of those 39 cases were our Latino kids,” Melara said.
However, official data from the CPDH showed 286,094 cases of Covid-19 among children under 5 years of age as of May 26, of whom 25 perished.
But, among children between the ages of 5 and 17, the infections totaled 1,381,517 and 46 deaths.
As for the proportion of cases and deaths by race and ethnicity among people aged 0 to 17, among 1,380,638 cases of Covid-19, the total number of deaths was 71 as of May 26.
Of said number of dead, Latinos were at the head with 38, followed by Caucasians, with 12; Asian 9 and African American 7.
Children worry experts
Dr. Lucía Abascal, a clinical researcher at the California Department of Public Health, stated that, although vaccination campaigns among children and adolescents between 11 and 16 years of age have been complicated, it is even more so with children between 5 and 11 years of age.
“This has put us on a very high alert in California, particularly where we have high rates of infections,” the health expert said. “It’s worrying, and we’ll see what happens to the little ones if they get seriously ill.”
Abascal specified that much of the problem is occurring in some areas of the Central Valley of California, as well as in large cities, such as Sacramento and San Francisco.
Knowing that the efficacy of vaccines has decreased with the new Omicron variants, “at first people thought that vaccines were going to make them sick, when our purpose is to reduce the severity of the disease, infection rates, hospitalizations and deaths”.
“If you are vaccinated, you are protected and you are 10 times less likely to get sick,” said the health expert.
Dinora Hernandez, a Salvadoran mother who lives in South Central Los Angeles, said it took her a while to decide to vaccinate her son Liam, who is about to turn 5.
“It’s that my cousin’s son almost died of the fever he got; his whole body ached and he told me the boy felt like his arm almost fell off,” she said. “But then I started to think that it was better to vaccinate him, before he suddenly got sick and I had to rush him to the hospital.”
Dinora said that after Liam was vaccinated, she checked on him every five minutes. She asked him if he felt dizzy, if she had a headache or made him move his arm up and down.
Now, having understood the lesson and the importance of inoculation, he sends a message to Latino families: “We must raise awareness and protect ourselves all so that the pandemic ends; We are all exposed to getting sick.”
“A Family Affair”
For her part, Mrs. Norma Payró, who lives in the city of Wildomar, in Riverside County, commented that she talked with her husband and they came to the conclusion not to vaccinate their children.
“Our view of this disease [Covid-19] it is that the vaccines came out very quickly and our logic was to think, how is it possible that they had a vaccine so quickly?”, he said. “At other times in life there have been similar diseases and it had taken a long time to approve a vaccine.”
The woman, who is an assistant in the Lake Elsinore school district, argued that “from the beginning the government did not give information, and at the same time the death of a relatively young relative in Tabasco happened. [México]”.
But have you already got the information you need to make a reasonable decision? he was asked.
“Yes; In fact, the whole family got Covid-19, and of course we tried to take care of ourselves with all the precautions at home and outside it; My children continue to wear their masks at school and we follow the sanitary measures to the letter… but getting the vaccine is a family matter. We are not afraid, but we do have reservations. My husband and I hold on to the Lord’s hand.”