Not everyone is old enough to get vaccinated against COVID-19. And some Reddit parents are feeling invisible, emotionally exhausted, and fed up with COVID fatigue.
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"Get vaccinated. Get a booster," is a prevailing message from public health officials and the Biden Administration right now.

It's not bad advice; vaccines lower hospitalizations. And, with so much we still don't know about the Omicron variant, a surge in cases, and ongoing holiday celebrations, having added protection can help people protect themselves, each other, and the health care system.

But there's a problem: Not everyone is eligible for a vaccine. Children under five are still awaiting their turn to roll up their sleeves. Though children are generally spared the worst outcomes of COVID-19, 236 children ages 0 to 4 have died of the virus since the pandemic began, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data as of Dec. 15. More than 27,000 children under 18 have been hospitalized since May 21, 2020, according to data from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) as of Dec. 9.

In other words, children are not immune to COVID-19. And one Reddit mom is exhausted with the daily risks her toddler faces.

An image of a mask on a blue background.
Credit: Getty Images.

"No one cares about the 'too young to vaccinate,'" started u/queenmagikarp.in the Beyond the Bump subreddit.

The original poster's (OP) daughter is a little under two. Though she and her husband are vaccinated and boosted, they still (understandably) have concerns about COVID-19, especially for their daughter. But they both need to work, so they've been sending the child to daycare.

"She has been quarantined twice in a month at this point and four times this year," the OP said. "But…nobody cares."

In fact, her workplace sounds downright unsupportive.

"Work asks how I am going to get things done while I'm home," she wrote. "We both are completely out of PTO, and they offer no help. We have lost thousands of dollars because there is also no federal support for us. Everyone acts like I am greatly disrupting their life by having to care for my kid, or like I'm shameful because she was quarantined."

There's a lot to unpack here. For starters, following precautions to keep people safe is not shameful. Second, pandemic or not, parents need flexibility from employers and assistance from the government to care for their children. The United States is the only industrialized nation without paid family leave, and other countries spend significantly more to offset childcare costs. And we wonder why birth rates are declining.

But honestly? Mom just wants her kid to be OK.

"I am terrified of her getting COVID," she said. "I feel like I have done everything I reasonably can to try and keep her safe, and everyone around us is actively working against that. I am completely past my breaking point."

My son was born at the start of this pandemic and is about the same age as the OP's. I have spent the last 21 months working and caring for him full-time without assistance because we are too afraid to send him to daycare and don't have family help. It's exhausting, isolating, and deflating. Other parents are having similar experiences, and they spoke out on Reddit.

"I feel the same way. My husband and I both are triple vaccinated…Unfortunately, I have to work outside the home. I go to work, and people are coming in sick with 'just a cold,' touting their anti-vax, anti-mask [beliefs] and expect me to be okay with it?! I have a coworker who lives with his mom who tested positive for COVID the day before, and he came to work unvaccinated with no mask," said one person. This is why we're still in this mess nearly two years later.

Also, while the vaccines are effective, severely immunocompromised people may develop less of a response, complicating matters for some families.

"I have a 2.5-year-old that got COVID from his teacher at daycare in September. I'm a breast cancer survivor and just found out we're expecting baby two. Hubby and I were lucky we didn't get COVID-19 from our son," another wrote.

And others are just exasperated and holding their breaths, waiting for their kids to be eligible for the vaccine.

"You are absolutely right. I wish they'd approve a vaccine for the under-five crowd. I pray for it daily," said another.

Vaccines for children under 5 are expected to be approved in early 2022.

Until then, there are steps adults and older children can take to protect babies and toddlers, including:

  • Getting vaccinated and boosted when eligible. The CDC says vaccines effectively protect against hospitalization and death, and the AAP recommends children 5 and up get the vaccine.
  • Wearing a mask. COVID-19 is airborne. Well-fitting masks can stop respiratory droplets from reaching someone else and reduce viral transmission. KN95s and N95s, now widely available, are considered the best types. That said, the best mask is one your child will wear, experts say.
  • Air quality. Improved ventilation in schools, daycares, and workplaces can also help reduce the transmission of viruses, including COVID-19, and even improve test scores. Parents can't personally upgrade a building's filtration and ventilation system, but they can politely ask if the facility opens the window to let outdoor air indoors.
  • Testing. People naturally want to get together for special occasions, and others need to go to work or school. Testing regularly, such as before and after gatherings, can prevent you from inadvertently going about life while carrying the virus.

The pandemic has been exhausting, but it's not over. Vaccines, weightless pieces of cloth, opening a window, and testing are all simple, non-invasive ways to make the world safer for everyone, including the youngest among us.