Vaccination of young children: Education will be the key, experts say

Just thinking that her two-year-old will be able to get her first COVID-19 shot is enough for Katie Gibbs to breathe a sigh of relief.

More than a year and a half after Canada began distributing the COVID-19 vaccine, the Ottawa mother of two says her family still avoids socializing indoors out of concern for their youngest child, not immune.

Gibbs is one of many parents who enthusiastically welcomed Thursday’s federal approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for children under five.

“We are really looking forward to the peace of mind that she has some protection,” Gibbs said by telephone Wednesday. The protection to which everyone else is entitled. “

But while authorities have approved Moderna’s vaccine for children aged six months to five years, some parents are not convinced it’s worth getting their little ones vaccinated.

Agnieszka Jezyk said she was not in a hurry to get her 18-month-old son vaccinated, noting that she and the toddler received COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated and receiving a booster dose.

“I just do not think it’s worth it,” Jezyk said in a park in Toronto on Wednesday. But I think it’s really helpful for people who have health issues. “

The relatively low COVID-19 vaccination rate in younger age groups has raised concerns about challenges that may arise from the rollout of vaccines to younger Canadians.

According to federal figures, only 56% of children aged 5 to 11 received at least one dose compared to 85% of the general population.

“What we have seen is that for younger age groups, there has been more vaccination dust,” said Dr. Shelley Deeks, Nova Scotia’s Deputy Chief of Health. , at a press conference on Thursday. We do not know what the membership will be for that age group. “

The province recommends the vaccine, which is expected to be launched in August, and encourages parents to ask their health care questions when making vaccination decisions for their family, said Dr. Deeks.

Dr. Jeff Kwong, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of Toronto, said he understands that parents only want the best for their children, but a risk-benefit analysis clearly indicates that it is preferable to vaccinate them against COVID. 19.

“We know the harms of COVID. And we know that these vaccines are effective (…) in adults to prevent serious diseases,” Dr. Kwong said on Wednesday. “We just want to protect your child from serious consequences.”

Children tend to have milder COVID-19 symptoms, Drs. Kwong, however, parents should not rule out the risk of infection, which in rare cases can lead to serious illness and hospitalization.

There are also concerns about long-term health effects, he added, especially with so much unknown about the effects of recurrent infections.

There is no reason to believe that children are more likely to suffer serious side effects from the vaccine, which have been very rare in adults, he said.

Healthcare professionals, such as paediatricians and pharmacists, have an important role to play in educating parents about the benefits of vaccination, Drs. Kwong.

But he said he was concerned that some of these trusted providers lacked the time and resources to address parental concerns.

“People are tired and they are overworked,” he said. It takes a lot of effort to educate people. ”

Science communicator Samantha Yammine claimed there is plenty of information about the problem online, and warned parents to check if the source is credible.

Ms Yammine also reminded people that Canada’s drug regulator conducted a thorough review of Moderna’s application for authorization, noting that the decision was made about a month after the United States gave the green light to the vaccine.

“I think it’s important for parents to know that there are a lot of things in that decision,” she said. Some parents may have felt frustrated that our review process took a little longer. ”

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