Why Covid Vaccines For Hawaii's Kids Are So Important - Honolulu Civil Beat

To ensure our nonprofit newsroom has the resources next year to continue our impactful reporting, we need to welcome 700 new donors and raise $225,000 by December 31.

We have raised $96,000 from 1,540 donors, including 210 new donors. Mahalo!

Donate

To ensure our nonprofit newsroom has the resources next year to continue our impactful reporting, we need to welcome 700 new donors and raise $225,000 by December 31.

We have raised $96,000 from 1,540 donors, including 210 new donors. Mahalo!

Donate


About the Authors

Akolea Ioane

Akolea Ioane is an M.D. in family medicine at Straub Medical Center.

Marcus Kawika Iwane

Marcus Kawika Iwane is an M.D. in internal medicine at Kaiser Permanente West Oahu Medical Office.

Kara Noelani Wong Ramsey

Kara Noelani Wong Ramsey, M.D., is a pediatrician at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.


Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians issued recommendations that children ages 5 to 11 receive an age-approved Covid-19 vaccine.

Opinion article badge

This means that for the first time, about 28 million children in the United States in this age group are now eligible for vaccination. At the same time, it’s been well-documented that roughly one-third of parents — many of them vaccinated themselves — plan to take a wait-and-see approach regarding vaccinations for their younger children.

As parents who are also physicians, we understand and respect that the decision to vaccinate keiki is complicated. On the one hand, the science is clear: the same vaccines that have protected the lives of many millions of adults and teens now show a high efficacy of 90% protection against Covid-19 illness without severe side effects in trials of younger children. And while the Covid vaccines themselves are relatively new, the exacting standards and practices by which they were developed and approved for use are not.

On the other hand, whenever children are involved, we rightly subject our decisions and actions to even greater discernment and scrutiny. There is nothing more precious than the well-being of our children.

Hawaii Pacific Health COVID-19 vaccinations held at Pier 2.
Children aged 5 to 11 are now eligible to receive the vaccine. Hawaii families are encouraged to discuss this with their pediatricians, physicians and other primary care providers. Cory Lum/Civil Beat

In Hawaiian culture, we have an ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Ka lei hāʻuleʻole, he keiki. This Hawaiian saying translates to, “A lei that is never cast aside is one’s child,” because our keiki are our most precious treasure.

Unfortunately, this disease is so highly contagious that adopting a wait-and-see approach can be risky — especially with the holiday season upon us. This past summer, the spread of the delta variant led to a surge of Covid-19 cases in children, with hospitalizations of children and teenagers in the U.S. up fivefold compared with the number of cases in the spring.

Despite the seemingly low death rate among children, Covid-19 is now one of the top 10 causes of death of children in the United States. Even a death of a single child from this preventable illness is one too many. Furthermore, potential long-term effects of Covid-19 are serious with about 2% of infected children in Hawaii needing hospitalization — that’s already 2% too many children in the hospital who are not at home embraced by the aloha of their ohana.

Here in Hawaiʻi, the infection rate among Native Hawaiians has risen during the delta surge. This seems especially poignant considering our history, throughout which vaccine-preventable illnesses have been a major cause of death in Native Hawaiian children and adults for nearly 200 years.

In addition to serious physical illness, the Covid-19 pandemic has had other detrimental impacts on the mental health of our young people. The risk of another resurgence and a return to sheltering-in-place brings with it the possibility of prolonging conditions in which our kids are denied the chance to be together in school, out surfing or fishing, dancing hula or playing music and sports with their ohana cheering them on.

These are more than just pleasant childhood experiences — they’re vital for the social, physical, spiritual, academic and mental health of our keiki.

Healthy Ohana

After taking all this in, how can parents be expected to make this very personal decision quickly? It’s not by spending time in social media forums plagued with misinformation and pseudoscience on Facebook or Twitter.

Rather, the place to make the decision about vaccinating children is in personal kūkākūkā (consultations) with our families and the kauka (doctor) and other health care professionals we trust: our pediatricians, family physicians, and other primary care providers.

If — like many people right now — you find yourself unsure about what to do, we urge you to seek out the advice and perspective of your child’s pediatrician or primary care provider. We, as kauka, are eager to listen to your concerns, help dispel myths about vaccines, and help you make the best decision for the health of your ohana, your keiki, and our kaiāulu (community).

Even a death of a single child from this preventable illness is one too many.

As kauka, or Native Hawaiian physicians, it is our kuleana (responsibility) to provide accurate medical information and we encourage parents to get their keiki vaccinated. All three of us have keiki between the ages of 5-11 who have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. All of us have experienced caring for children who contracted Covid and it’s one of the most pressing reasons we want everyone’s child to be vaccinated.

We end with this ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: ‘O ka makua ke koʻo o ka hale meaning, “the parent is the support that holds the household together.”

To honor our kuleana to our children, we must weigh the facts and ultimately make decisions based upon what’s in our naʻau (heart and mind).

And the place to discover that is in quiet conversations with kauka and other professionals who we trust and are closest to us.

Community Voices aims to encourage broad discussion on many topics of community interest. It’s kind of a cross between Letters to the Editor and op-eds. This is your space to talk about important issues or interesting people who are making a difference in our world. Column lengths should be no more than 800 words and we need a photo of the author and a bio. We welcome video commentary and other multimedia formats. Send to news@civilbeat.org. The opinions and information expressed in Community Voices are solely those of the authors and not Civil Beat.


Read this next:

Hawaii Has Benefited From Kitty Simond’s Leadership


Not a subscription

Civil Beat is a small nonprofit newsroom, and we’re committed to a paywall-free website and subscription-free content because we believe in journalism as a public service. That’s why donations from readers like you are essential to our continued existence.

Help keep our journalism free for all readers by becoming a monthly member of Civil Beat today.

Contribute

About the Authors

Akolea Ioane

Akolea Ioane is an M.D. in family medicine at Straub Medical Center.

Marcus Kawika Iwane

Marcus Kawika Iwane is an M.D. in internal medicine at Kaiser Permanente West Oahu Medical Office.

Kara Noelani Wong Ramsey

Kara Noelani Wong Ramsey, M.D., is a pediatrician at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.


Latest Comments (0)

     First you say " the science is clear" , then you contradict yourself by saying the vaccine is "relatively new" .     Everybody knows it was rushed to market in six months. That is not how real "science " would approve a vaccine. It always takes years of clinical trials.      Right now, the FDA wants to hide the Pfizer clinical trails for 50 years. If " the science is clear" , what is the FDA hiding?     I can see that you are trying to reach out to the Hawaiian community by peppering your essay with Hawaiian language ( complete with translations) , but people know when they are being patronized and talked down to.      To show how clear the science is, can you explain to us , in an adult manner, why COVID has spared the African continent?      Include the part where Maleria and intestinal parasites are rampant , and treatment options for those maladies are passed out like candy.    I was vaccinated early due to my age, but my immune system has been compromised ever since. My white blood cell count has dropped significantly.

palakakanaka · 2 weeks ago

This is a wonderful essay from these caring physicians. I appreciate their efforts to spread the word among a segment of our community that has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19. Our keiki are so important to us parents. The chance to protect them from fever, cough, pneumonia, long COVID and worse is a blessing!

Huialoha · 2 weeks ago

Out of the 73 million children under the age of 18 in the US less than 700 have died from covid. Meanwhile it usually takes between 5-15 years for a new drug to get approval for widespread use. 

FreeThinker · 3 weeks ago

Join the conversation

About IDEAS

IDEAS is the place you'll find essays, analysis and opinion on every aspect of life and public affairs in Hawaii. We want to showcase smart ideas about the future of Hawaii, from the state's sharpest thinkers, to stretch our collective thinking about a problem or an issue. Email news@civilbeat.org to submit an idea.

Mahalo!

You're officially signed up for our daily newsletter, the Morning Beat. A confirmation email will arrive shortly.

In the meantime, we have other newsletters that you might enjoy. Check the boxes for emails you'd like to receive.

  • What's this? Be the first to hear about important news stories with these occasional emails.
  • What's this? You'll hear from us whenever Civil Beat publishes a major project or investigation.
  • What's this? Get our latest environmental news on a monthly basis, including updates on Nathan Eagle's 'Hawaii 2040' series.
  • What's this? Get occasional emails highlighting essays, analysis and opinion from IDEAS, Civil Beat's commentary section.

Inbox overcrowded? Don't worry, you can unsubscribe
or update your preferences at any time.