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Southern California parents of young kids worry as COVID-19 protocols disappear

As the mother of four who got the coronavirus vaccine shortly after becoming eligible, Krissy Brownell scheduled appointments for her 6- and 8-year-old children the week they could get the jab.

Now to inoculate the other two.

With an immunocompromised 2- and 4-year-old in her Los Alamitos home, Brownell has waited, obsessively, for drug makers to present and federal health officials to OK a COVID-19 vaccine for the approximately 18 million children younger than 5 in the U.S.

When that will happen, however, is anyone’s guess.

Brownell, 39, is among scores of parents with toddlers too young to be vaccinated who, on top of waiting for the green light to inoculate their tykes, now must adapt to the recent relaxation of safety measures put into place early in the pandemic to stem the spread of COVID-19 and subsequent, more-contagious-than-the-last variants.

“I don’t think it’s fair that safety measures are being relaxed before everyone has an opportunity to be vaccinated,” said Brownell, a teacher in the Huntington Beach City School District in Orange County. “We shut everything down for the grown-ups and then nobody seems to care about the little ones … It’s beyond frustrating because it’s like the rest of the world, if you want to be vaccinated, you can.

“Except for our kid.”

Considering how seriously the country has taken the threat of COVID-19 the past two years, not to mention the damage dealt to hundreds of thousands of families who have lost loved ones to the disease, Gabby Mason still is wrapping her head around the universal loosening of safety protocols as the pandemic enters a third year.

A 29-year-old single working mother whose 2-year-old attends a child development center at San Bernardino Valley College eight hours a day, the Yucaipa resident has kept her little one home for the better part of her young life and away from crowded public spaces.

Inoculating her daughter when possible is a priority, Mason said, for the “protective barrier” the vaccine provides against serious illness and hospitalization.

Until then, she waits.

As of Wednesday, March 16, more than 400 children up to age 4 have died from COVID-19, according to data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention pulled from 780,705 deaths. That’s a higher death toll than for children between the ages 5 and 11, 12 and 15, and 16 and 17.

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