COLUMBIA, S.C. (WBTW) – As the COVID-19 vaccine becomes more widely available, there’s concern it alone may not heal some things the pandemic has hurt for children.
Like everyone, the pandemic has changed the lives of children, from where they learn to even how they eat.
“We realize that a lot kids, their educational setting is that safe, stable, nurtured environment,” said Aditi Srivastav, research director for Children’s Trust of South Carolina, a child advocacy group.
Srivastav helped with a national study of how COVID-19 has hurt kids and families by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. The study says in South Carolina, about 43% of families have had trouble finding child care. About 150,000 kids, or 14% of the state’s total, live in homes without health insurance.
Srivastav says racial inequality makes these “unintended consequences” of necessary social distancing measures worse.
“People of color are more likely to be essential workers because those are lower-wage jobs that don’t often offer things like health insurance or child care,” she said.
The study also says 726,406 South Carolinians, or about 40%, who became unemployed during the pandemic reported having a child in their household. More than 90,395 homes with children also don’t have regular access to broadband internet, which is vital for virtual classes.
Kids spending less time in school is also leading to concerns about fewer reports of child abuse or neglect.
“I’ve had friends of mine that are teachers share stories of really alarming, high-risk situations they’ve seen in the background of kids’ Zooms as they’re attempting to learn,” said Srivastav.
The development of a vaccine may lead to a faster full reopening of schools.
“The children, the students, won’t be getting the vaccines,” said Dr. Gerald Harmon, vice president of medical affairs for Tidelands Health. “The teachers, however, are going to be in the higher priority.”
While Srivastav says a vaccine is enormous for ending the pandemic, it won’t cure the societal damage left behind.
“Kids not having broadband access is still going to be a problem, whether or not there’s a vaccine,” she said. “Parents having to choose between quality child care or staying home and not having a job is also going to be an issue.”
The study also says 99,782 South Carolina households reported children not eating enough due to the financial burdens from COVID-19.