CLOVER, S.C. — The rise of the omicron variant is not changing the minds of a South Carolina family choosing not to vaccinate their children.
Sarah Haight and her husband are not getting the COVID-19 vaccine for themselves or for their boys ages 9, 12 and 14.
“We’ve never been against vaccines in general, but we are much against being pushed against our will and against their will,” Haight said.
There are omicron cases already in North Carolina and South Carolina. However, this family stands by their decision.
Haight said up until now they have not changed their habits and have not worn masks throughout the pandemic.
“We're still here. So, that's not to say that something could happen tomorrow, you know. But, I think I just don't want to live in fear,” Haight said.
Haight and her family moved to South Carolina from North Carolina in January because of mask mandates in schools. She explained their reasoning on her way to pick up her 9-year-old son, Cam, from school.
“We moved here because of the schools. To get him to a place where he could go to school without being in a mask. He has medical conditions that keep him from being able to wear one,” Haight said.
As of Monday, 11% of children ages 5 to 11 in South Carolina received at least one shot of the COVID-19 vaccine. In North Carolina, that number is 19%.
In North Carolina, 46% of children ages 12 to 17 have been vaccinated with at least one dose. In South Carolina, that number is lower at 20%.
Novant Health Medical Director Dr. Charles Bregier said vaccines are safe for children and teens. He said with the delta variant there were a larger number of children contracting COVID-19 and getting sick.
“It’s spreading to younger and younger populations, and also they're getting sicker with more of them in the hospital so we need to remember that children can also become very ill with COVID, if they get it,” Dr. Bregier said. “And let's remember that in order to really protect our grandparents and our other family members and friends and neighbors who may be at higher risk for a bad outcome.”
In addition, he said vaccines also prevent children from getting COVID-19 long-hauler syndrome.
“Let's really do what we can to protect our children and our families and everyone, and really try to bring an end to this pandemic. The more we get vaccinated, the sooner we'll have more and more people that are safe and be able to get back to more normalcy in our lives,” Dr. Bregier said.
Sarah said she is still hesitant about getting the vaccine for her or her family because she worries about potential long-term effects.
“I don't think that anything less than 10 years really gives a true picture of what the effects are going to be down the road,” Haight said.
However, she said she respects if others decide to get the COVID-19 vaccine.
“I’m not saying that everybody shouldn't get it if they want to, but we just don't want to get it,” Haight said.
Dr. Bregier recommends parents hesitant about getting their children vaccinated to talk to their children’s pediatrician and share their concerns.