From coast to coast, parents favoring the wearing of masks and the Covid-19 vaccines currently approved for emergency use for children over age 12 are finding themselves at logger heads with their co-parent who oppose both. Some even calling forcing a child to wear a mask, child abuse.
Most parenting agreements require both parents’ consent for medical decisions which include vaccines unless the parent favoring the vaccine has final decision making authority. Recent polls show that 55% of parents in the United States would get the Covid-19 vaccine for very young children if it is made available.
This is the newest frontier in the ongoing parenting difficulties during a pandemic.
Co-Parenting in 2020:
Last year parents grappled with shut-downs, home schooling, transporting children from home-to-home for shared parenting agreements. They also had to determine whether to schedule regular vaccines during Covid, deal with quarantining and closed courts in which to seek relief. Many parents willfully violated court orders by withholding children or moving them out of state “to protect them” from rampant Covid-19 outbursts in their county or city. Others felt children needed to be somewhere with outdoor space when city apartments were the only spaces children had to play in. Court backlogs and a somewhat return to normalcy in terms of restrictions and adhering to parenting agreements resulted in many parents going unpunished for their “contempt” of court orders to the chagrin of the offended parent.
Co-Parenting in 2021:
Many school districts are open for in person learning, many requiring mask-wearing on the part of students and vaccines for teachers and school personnel. Pfizer submitted data to obtain FDA approval of the Covid-19 vaccine for children ages 5-12 for emergency use (children ages 12-15 were added for emergency use in May 2021). It is expected to obtain approval for emergency use on this younger age group by Halloween 2021 which raises more questions for parents who oppose vaccines themselves as to whether they should vaccinate their under age 12-year-old children. Now the problems for co-parents are who can my child be exposed to? Who has my child been exposed to? What is going on in other people’s households? Are they wearing masks? Are they at risk for Covid? If they are openly opposed to the vaccine and mask wearing, what risk does that pose for my child in their home, with their friends and family? With my co-parent?
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More contagious Delta variant Effects Children
There has been an increase in the rate of hospitalizations in children, even at the earlier surges of this disease. Since the delta variant is causing so much more sheer volume of infections and cases, that same percentage is reflected as a larger number of children are ending up in the hospital. At Children’s National Hospital over 3,000 kids have been taken care of with COVID since the beginning of this pandemic. And in this last surge, the hospital isolation unit beds are filling with children who are sick and had to be hospitalized.
Children are the same proportion of hospitalizations compared to adults as pre the delta variant. The delta variant is so much more contagious and kids under 12 are not vaccinated so that there is a greater number of children being hospitalized.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and Children’s Hospital Association data reports that children are still somewhere between 12- to 15% of all the cases of COVID and still are about 3- to 4% of all the hospitalizations. NPR’s Ari Shapiro speaks to Dr. Roberta DeBiasi of Children’s National Hospital on the coronavirus variant delta’s impact on children.
Two new studies found COVID-19 cases in children and adolescents have been increasing in number but not severity since the delta variant became predominant.
The studies from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also showed adolescent COVID-19 hospitalization rates are highest among those who are not vaccinated and in communities with low vaccine coverage.
Impact of vaccination
Both studies showed vaccination has a significant impact on COVID-19 hospitalizations. One found unvaccinated adolescents were hospitalized in July at a rate 10 times higher than fully vaccinated adolescents.
The other showed emergency department visits and hospitalizations for COVID-19 were 3.4 and 3.7 times higher in states with the lowest vaccination coverage compared to states with the highest vaccination coverage.
What To Do As A Parent When One Parent Is Opposed to the Vaccine
The science and the available studies are telling all of us that vaccines save lives. Depending on the age of the child, if the vaccine is available, according to all government and credible scientific evidence, children should be vaccinated. If the other parent refuses and your custodial arrangement requires joint or mutual consent with no overrides, your options are:
1. Place your child at serious risk of infection by NOT vaccinating them and potentially exposing them to the Covid-19 virus;
2. Try to mediate the issue with a professional mediator in the hope of convincing the parent who opposes vaccines and masks to allow for it; or
3. Seek court intervention for an order to override the decision making authority in your parenting plan so you can get the child vaccinated and insist on mask wearing when indoors.
Much is written on this topic concerning disrupting a parenting plan that is “working” by seeking court intervention. The health, safety and well-being of the child is a parent’s primary responsibility. If that is threatened by another parent’s refusal to take reasonable precautions to protect the child by mask wearing and agreeing to allow the child to be vaccinated, that parent has reneged and failed in their primary parental responsibility.