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Some Arkansas families relieved their youngest can be vaccinated

Now that vaccines are available for elementary-aged kids, some families will soon have all of their members fully vaccinated for the first time.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The COVID-19 pandemic has come with a lot of stress and a lot of tough decisions. Now that vaccines are available for elementary-aged kids, some families will soon have all of their members fully vaccinated for the first time.

While not everyone is eager to get their kids in line for the shot, this news comes with a sense of relief for many.

Nate Olson, a sportswriter and THV11 contributor, is a husband and dad of two sons – Luke and JD. The Olsons have navigated the pandemic together.

“I think it's made us closer,” Olson said. “We’ve really kind of taken it on as a challenge – we're going to do everything we can not to get this.”

Luke and JD have been back at school and playing sports, but taking precautions.

“You try to make sure that you're being safe, but also we want to make sure that the mental health part of it too and that he's not frustrated and depressed being at home too much,” he said.

Finding that balance is a struggle for many families right now, according to Dr. Nihit Kumar, an Assistant Professor in the UAMS Department of Psychiatry.

Dr. Kumar, who specializes in child and adolescent psychiatry, says now that elementary-aged children can get their shot – it changes the game.

“We hear news reports almost every day that says, ‘well, the kid has been exposed, they have to be quarantined or their peers have to be quarantined,” Kumar said. “Them getting vaccinated would be an additional layer of protection that parents can feel a little bit more safe about.”

Nearly a third of parents in a recent survey said they weren't planning to have their kids vaccinated immediately. Almost another third said they won't vaccinate their children at all.

Dr. Kumar says these decisions must be made on a case-by-case basis, and kids' mental wellness should be considered.

“It's really important to get kids back to their baseline, whether they can really function appropriately, both in the classroom setting and at home and with the peer groups,” Kumar said. “It's all about their mental health.”

All but one member of the Olson family is fully vaccinated. 10-year-old Luke got his first Pfizer dose last week as soon as he could.

“He wanted to be in that club and get that shot and be safe,” Nate said.

For dad, it was a no-brainer.

“We have confidence in the vaccine. We've listened to the health care professionals,” he said.

Due for his second dose in a few weeks, Luke is one step closer to a sense of normalcy the Olsons and so many others have craved for almost two years.

“He knows that he's the last piece of the puzzle, getting vaccinated. Then, we'll be able to go on a plane and do more things,” Olson said. “We feel a lot better now, though, that we'll all have it.”