Parents seem more reluctant to vaccinate children than themselves

Jennifer Hubert took the opportunity to receive her COVID-19 vaccine, but does not expect to have to make the decision to vaccinate her three-year-old son Jackson.

She acknowledges the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, but said she also understands that her child has a much lower risk of serious illness than older adults.

“For me it is not a clear benefit,” he said.

While many parents were delighted with the news that Health Canada is considering approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11 in Canada, parents like Hubert are feeling more uneasy and public health officials said that they’re going to have a lot more nuanced conversation with parents about vaccination than they do with adults.

While 82 percent of eligible Canadians ages 12 and older are already fully vaccinated, a recent Angus Reid survey shows that only 51 percent of parents plan to immediately vaccinate their children when a pediatric dose is available.

Of parents with children in the age range of five to 11 years, 23 percent said they would never give their children a COVID-19 vaccine, 18 percent said they would wait, and nine percent said they were not. Sure, according to the survey of 5,011 Canadians between September 29 and October 3, which cannot be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered random samples.

“Most of the research I’ve seen indicates that parents are more reluctant to vaccinate their children against COVID than themselves,” said Kate Allan, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for Vaccine Preventable Diseases at the University of Toronto. .

There are several reasons parents can take a break, he said.

It is true that children are at much lower risk of severe outcomes associated with COVID-19, and there have been very rare incidents of mRNA vaccines such as Pfizer or Moderna related to cases of myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle.

As of October 1, Health Canada has documented 859 vaccine-associated cases, which appear to primarily affect people under the age of 40, and people who have developed the complication are generally doing well.

“I know it’s rare, I know it’s not fatal, but I also see the risk of severe COVID symptoms as rare and not fatal for Jackson,” Hubert said when asked about weighing the risks and benefits of the vaccine.

Parents are more reluctant to vaccinate children than themselves, says the researcher. # COVID-19

But public health experts emphasize that some children suffer from rare but serious effects of COVID-19, which can also cause myocarditis, as well as the little-known effects of the condition known as long-term COVID.

They say parents should also consider the less tangible benefits of vaccination.

“It’s less a conversation about a direct benefit to them and more a benefit to the community,” Allan said.

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on children, depriving them of school, time with peers, extracurricular activities, and their mental health has suffered as a result, said Dr. Vinita Dubey, Toronto Public Health Associate Medical Officer .

“No child has been spared this pandemic. I mean all children have had to endure a sacrifice due to the pandemic in one form or another, ”Dubey said.

So far, Pfizer-BioNtech is the only manufacturer that has applied for approval of its pediatric COVID-19 vaccine and Health Canada is still reviewing the data.

The regulator has promised that the review will be comprehensive and that the vaccine will only be approved for children if the benefits outweigh the potential risks.

Legislators know that parents’ concerns will also have to be taken seriously.

On a recent visit to the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Dr. Anne Pham-Huy, a pediatric infectious disease physician.

“Confidence in the vaccine will be the most important part this time,” said Pham-Huy, to which Trudeau agreed.

Dubey has published research on how to improve parental confidence in vaccines when it comes to long-established vaccines like mumps and rubella.

While he offered several tips, they mostly boil down to building trust. His research focused on the role of family doctors, but he said that during the pandemic anyone can be a reliable sounding board.

“It could be a religious leader, it could be an important family member or friend, someone you trust, guiding you to the right sources to make that decision,” he said.

With that in mind, several students from across North America launched a peer education program called Students for Herd Immunity to allow children to have those conversations with each other.

Public health experts agree, the vaccine debate has become polarized, and open conversations will be the key to addressing parental concerns.

“I think one thing to say to parents is that they don’t have to make a decision right away,” Dubey said. “I mean those who are ready to make a decision, but that’s okay, but if you have questions, look for the answers.”

His only advice is to get those answers from a trusted source and not from social media.

This Canadian Press report was first published on October 24, 2021.

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