At last, my immediate family is now fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
My risk tolerance will now change, but that does not mean I'm going to "let it rip."
My 7-month-old daughter just received her second dose of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time. (Actually, I need to wait a few more days, to give her body time to generate immune responses that will provide the lasting protection she needs.)
I want to share with you my rationale for why I’ve been careful for so long, and what I will and won’t change in terms of my behaviors and choices, now that my family is fully vaccinated and therefore protected from the worst possible outcomes of Covid-19.
Protecting our baby girl until she was old enough to be vaccinated has been a priority. It’s the reason my family has not indulged in indoor dining or attended large indoor events during the pandemic. Until last year, we were careful, so as to protect our older daughter (who became eligible for vaccination last summer). Of course, by the time that happened, we had recently welcomed a second daughter. This moved the goalposts for us, as infants become eligible to start their Covid-19 vaccination series at 6 months of age. We decided we could hold off on a number of risky activities for a few more months, having come this far.
We’ve been careful for almost three years now. It has been a long slog. We have not been shut-ins, by any means. We’ve picked our spots, choosing to fly to California to see our children’s grandparents, for example. But basically, we’ve been on the conservative end of the spectrum.
Being careful for this long was warranted, I felt, especially since there was an endgame (i.e., vaccination once our newborn reached 6-7 months of age, which she now has). After all, as I wrote in Inside Medicine last fall, infants ages 0-6 months of age had higher rates of Covid-related hospitalization during late 2022 than any age group other than adults ages 65 and older.
For any readers who are unsure about the safety and efficacy of these vaccines for children, consider the source here; I took a lot of heat in the public health community a year ago for taking the principled stance that we would not vaccinate our children until the vaccine data were absolutely rock solid. (It remains puzzling to me that this was a controversial position, but there you have it.) But when the safety and efficacy data for children under age 5 (including infants over 6 months of age) became apparent, we were thrilled to vaccinate our 4-year-old child (which we did as soon as we could in 2022) and are equally thrilled to have done so for our younger child now.
Our little baby girl is the last member of our immediate family to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19. I’m now highly confident that whatever relatively low odds any of the four of us had of having a serious bout of Covid-19 if we contracted SARS-CoV-2 has now been reduced to the lowest possible level that we can expect to achieve for the foreseeable future.
Here’s how I see things: Covid-19 is a vaccine-delayable illness (i.e., getting vaccinated means that the short-term likelihood of infection drops precipitously, but in the long term, the vaccines do not protect against all infection). Covid-19 is also a behavior-delayable illness (i.e., given adequate resources, people can minimize their chances of getting infected—but unless they are willing to hunker down and avoid crowds indefinitely, the virus will likely find a person, eventually). On the other hand, Severe and/or fatal Covid-19 are—for the moment at least—almost entirely vaccine-preventable circumstances for healthy kids, young adults, and even some healthier older adults. So while I don’t want anyone in my family to get Covid-19, I’ve long assumed it likely that some (or all) of us will eventually get it sometime in the coming years. Now, I can sleep at night knowing my family is unlikely to suffer any serious or long-term consequences if and when that happens.
That does not mean I’m just going to “let it rip,” though. So, what does this mean for me?
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