COVID Vaccines for the Youngest Among Us

By Josephine McNeal

Josephine McNeal

As of mid-June, children ages 6 months through 4 years can now get COVID vaccines. This authorization expands eligibility for the vaccines to nearly 20 million additional children. But there are concerns specific to Black parents, including microaggressions and reports of implicit and explicit bias in health care, that have made it more difficult for Black people to trust the COVID vaccines, especially for their youngest children.

However, trusted medical experts in the Black community have been working to get the word out that the COVID vaccines are safe and effective, including for children. On a recent episode of Therapy for Black Girls podcast, a national podcast that features “a weekly chat about all things mental health and personal development,” Dr. Nina S. Ford Johnson, pediatrician and president of the Medical Society of Mobile County in Alabama, discussed getting children vaccinated.

In depth with Dr. Nina Ford Johnson, a nationally recognized pediatrician and a mom

During a Therapy for Black Girls podcast episode, recorded prior to vaccine authorization for children under 5, Dr. Ford Johnson discussed this important topic in detail with host Dr. Joy Bradford.

“It’s still very important for children of African American descent to get the COVID vaccine. I hate to say it like this, but when white people get a cold, Black people get the flu or pneumonia. It does affect us more seriously, so our rates are higher for hospitalization and serious illness,” said Dr. Ford Johnson in her conversation with Dr. Joy.

“My three kids under three [years old] will be first in line!… Because they’re sick so often and exposed to so much.”

Vaccination accessibility by way of #StayWellAmerica

Dr. Ford Johnson has worked on many COVID vaccine education efforts. In a compelling television ad, titled “I’m a Mom First,” she addressed vaccine hesitancy and educated Black communities about COVID-19. She has also participated in action driven items like Stay Well Health Fairs, which are a part of the We Can Do This Campaign to increase vaccine confidence while reinforcing basic prevention measures. Stay Well brings easy accessibility to Black communities, including parents of young children, during the pandemic. These events provide health screenings, in-person access to Black healthcare professionals, and COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and boosters.

“We don’t want to just give kids shots willy-nilly,” said Dr. Ford Johnson. “These vaccines have been tried and proven. We don’t see people with Smallpox, Polio, etc. in modern society and that’s because the vaccines work.”

Visit a Stay Well Health Fair

The health fairs make stops across the country. All things Stay Well-related, including the latest stops, can be found here. Stay Well Health Fairs will make stops in Florida and South Carolina in the coming months.

Stay Well Tallahassee | July 23, 2022 | 10am – 2pm                           

Florida A & M University

2101 Wahnish Way  

Tallahassee, Fl 32310

Stay Well Myrtle Beach | August 13, 2022 | 10am – 2pm                          

Smith Jones Recreation Center

1700 Smith Jones St.

Conway, SC 29527  

Conclusion

There are important reasons to get children ages 6 months and older vaccinated for COVID. You can’t predict how COVID will affect kids if they get it – they might be one of the lucky ones and just have the sniffles, but the risk for something much worse is very real. Children’s hospitalization rates have climbed to new record levels, and even children who don’t need hospital care sometimes have symptoms that last for months. The best way to protect children is with a safe and effective COVID vaccine. Dr. Johnson and the hundreds of Stay Well organizers agree that the benefits of the vaccines far outweigh any potential risks from side effects of the vaccines.

Josephine McNeal is a Public Relations Specialist at CMRignite, a strategic communications agency that specializes in developing cause and behavior change marketing for major nonprofits and government agencies. CMRignite, a subcontractor for Fors Marsh Group, works directly on the Health and Human Services’ COVID-19 public education campaign, We Can Do This, a national initiative to increase public confidence in and uptake of COVID-19 vaccines while reinforcing basic prevention measures.

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