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Colorado parents join public health campaign to promote COVID vaccine for kids

Public health officials hope fellow parents can help share important vaccine information to families making the decision.

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Three weeks after they became eligible, almost 20% of Colorado kids between ages 5 and 11 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Wednesday, CDPHE reported a total of 90,708 first doses have been administered to that age group, which is 18.9% of eligible children that age.

Several local health departments are trying to give parents useful and factual information as they make a decision about their kids' vaccines. Along with the doctors and experts, health leaders have recruited parents in the community to help spread the message.

“I will never tell a parent to vaccinate their kids if I don’t feel confident if this is something that I’m doing for my own children,” said Paulina Erices, a Littleton mother of three kids ages 18, 16, and 10.

Her older two children are fully vaccinated. Her youngest, a daughter, was part of a kids vaccine trial this summer. She initially received the placebo shot – and just got her first real dose of the child’s vaccine this month.

“Every time a new phase of vaccine opens, it’s a relief to know we can, one, start with regular activities, feeling a little safer there. Also being able to reconnect with people we have not been about to see in person in a while,” she said.

Erices is one of several parents participating in a new vaccine information campaign with local health departments, including Jefferson County Public Health, where she used to work. The campaign, “Help Kids Be Kids,” shares health and safety information about the child’s COVID-19 vaccine, where families can find appointments, and what to expect after.

RELATED: What are the vaccine side effects for children ages 5 to 11?

The health departments feature the voices of pediatricians as well as parents like Erices.

“We want to make sure we are reaching people who need help making a decision and we can help make that decision,” said Nicole Wellander, who is part of the communications office at JeffCo Public Health.

“There’s so much information everywhere and on so many things that it can be hard to filter out what you actually need to make a decision about vaccination,” Wellander said.

She said for many families, the most trusted voice in this conversation is their own pediatrician or family doctor.

“So with this campaign, our agencies came together to decide the voices that people need to hear right now," she said. "They’re not the public health voices. They’re the pediatricians.”

Paulina Erices shared her family’s vaccine story in Spanish.

“When [the health department] asked me if I could share my experience I absolutely jumped at the opportunity, especially for Latino communities,” she said. “I did my work, my interviews with them, in Spanish because I believe that's one of the communities that's struggling the most in making the decision.”

Erices knows some families may be uncertain about vaccines. Many are just learning the language, have experienced inequities in healthcare, or don't know who to trust.

Erices said she believes it's important to have spokespeople like her who not only belong to diverse communities, but also are willing to listen to and engage with diverse communities and address issues around trust and access to healthcare.

“That’s very important to me that people can have access to accurate information, make their own decision, and also have a space of dignity when they’re making those decisions. So we worked very hard to make spaces in the community vaccine access available for everybody across our community,” she said.

“I understand the hesitancy and I also want to say – let’s do this together. Because we’re not going to ‘get over’ this, we’re not going to have a regular normal life again, unless we all contribute, unless we all commit to overcoming this pandemic," she said.

RELATED: Parents get 6-year-old son vaccinated in honor of grandfather who died of COVID


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