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Parents more hesitant to vaccinate kids than themselves, researcher says – CHEK

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OTTAWA — Jennifer Hubert jumped at the opportunity to get her COVID-19 vaccine, but she’s not looking forward to having to make the decision about whether to vaccinate her three-year-old son Jackson.

She recognizes the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, but said she also understands her son is at a much lower risk for serious illness than older adults.

“To me it’s not a clear benefit,” she said.

While many parents were overjoyed at the news that Health Canada is considering approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine for kids age five to 11 in Canada, parents like Hubert are feeling more trepidatious, and public health officials said they are going to have a much more nuanced conversation with parents about vaccination than they did with adults.

While 82 per cent of eligible Canadians aged 12 and up are already fully vaccinated, a recent survey by Angus Reid shows only 51 per cent of parents plan to immediately vaccinate their kids when a pediatric dose becomes available.

Of parents with children in the five to 11 year age range, 23 per cent said they would never give their kids a COVID-19 vaccine, 18 per cent said they would wait, and nine per cent said they weren’t sure, according to the survey of 5,011 Canadians between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3, which cannot be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered random samples.

“Most of the research that I’ve seen sort of indicates that parents are more hesitant to vaccinate their kids against COVID than themselves,” said Kate Allen, a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Vaccine Preventable Diseases of the University of Toronto.

There are several reasons parents might pause, she said.

It’s true that children are at a much lower risk of serious outcomes associated with COVID-19, and there have been very rare incidents of mRNA vaccines like Pfizer or Moderna linked to cases of myocarditis, a swelling of the heart muscle.

As of Oct. 1, Health Canada has documented 859 cases associated with the vaccines, which mainly seem to affect people under 40 years old, and people who’ve developed the complication have typically been fine.

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

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

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

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

The pandemic has taken a heavy toll on children, depriving them of school, time with their peers, extracurriculars — and their mental health has suffered as a result, said Dr. Vinita Dubey, associate medical officer of health with Toronto Public Health.

“Not one child has been spared from this pandemic. I mean every single child has had to bear a sacrifice because of the pandemic in one way or the other,” Dubey said.

So far Pfizer-BioNtech is the only manufacturer to request approval for its pediatric COVID-19 vaccine and Health Canada is still reviewing the data.

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

Policy-makers know they’re going to have to take parents’ concerns seriously as well.

On a recent tour of the Childrens’ Hospital of Eastern Ontario in Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau spoke with Dr. Anne Pham-Huy, a pediatric infectious diseases physician.

“Vaccine confidence is going to be the most important part of it this time around,” Pham-Huy said, to which Trudeau agreed.

Dubey has published research on improving parents’ vaccine confidence when it comes to long-established inoculations like mumps and rubella.

While she offered several tips, they mainly come down to building trust. Her research focused on the role of family doctors, but she said during the pandemic anyone can be that trusted sounding board.

“It could be a faith leader, it could be an important family member or friend, someone who you trust, to help guide you to the right sources to make that decision,” she said.

With that in mind, several students from across North America launched a peer-to-peer education program called Students for Herd Immunity to allow kids to have those conversations among themselves.

The public health experts agree, the debate around vaccines has become polarized and open conversations will be the key to addressing parents’ concerns.

“I think one thing to say to parents is you don’t have to make your decision right away,” Dubey said. “I mean for those who are ready to make their decision, but it’s fine but if you have questions, seek the answers.”

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

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 24, 2021.

Laura Osman/The Canadian Press

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No new Covid-19 cases reported in Northwest Territories – Cabin Radio

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The NWT on Friday reported no new cases of Covid-19, only the third day of reporting to come back blank since the territory’s latest Delta-variant outbreak began in mid-August.

The active case count across the territory dropped from 42 to 35. Twenty-eight are in Tuktoyaktuk – which now has a rabies warning to contend with – while four are in Yellowknife and one each in Inuvik, Norman Wells, and Hay River.

There was no change to the number of hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, or deaths.

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Meanwhile, the World Health Organization on Friday dubbed the globe’s latest variant of concern Omicron.

Omicron, identified in South Africa, has a large number of mutations. Early evidence suggests it could be significantly more transmissible than Delta and present an increased reinfection risk.

However, the amount of evidence related to Omicron is low. The variant was only identified last week and the number of cases studied to date numbers in the low dozens.

Some countries, including Canada, moved swiftly on Friday to impose travel restrictions on South Africa and neighbouring nations.

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Canada currently has no direct flights to or from the affected region, but nevertheless banned the entry of all foreign nationals who have travelled through South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, or Eswatini in the past 14 days.

Some observers criticized the rush to travel bans, arguing South Africa was in effect being punished for operating a particularly effective variant surveillance program.

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Kids on P.E.I. receive first vaccinations against COVID-19 – CBC.ca

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One hundred and thirty children in P.E.I. received the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday — the first day the shot was available to five to 11-year-olds.

A pediatric vaccine clinic was held at the County Fair Mall in Summerside, P.E.I.

“I think it’s important because it can help protect others,” said 10-year-old Alex DesRoche. “I was worried that I’d get COVID and spread it to my papa … because he has cancer.”

Her mom, Robin DesRosche, is happy to have gotten her daughter vaccinated. 

Robin DesRosche (left) stands with her daughter Alex. DesRosche says it’s a relief to get her daughter vaccinated. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

“At any point in time, something can weigh in on your family and if you can do anything to try to prevent it, as a parent, I would,” said DesRoche. 

There are 13,000 kids in the five to 11 age group in the province, and 2,500 have appointments booked so far. 

Madeline Goguen, 10, said she was a little nervous to get the shot, but in the end, she said it didn’t hurt and was well worth it. 

“I’m excited because it’s been a while since I’ve gone on vacation,” Goguen said. “It was just quick. It was a tiny pinch and that was it.”

Getting the vaccine will make going to see her dad in New Brunswick less stressful, she said. 

“Every time that I had to get tested I was always worried,” said Goguen.

Her mother, LeAnne Weeks, shares that sense of relief.

LeeAnn Weeks (left) gives a thumbs up next to her daughter Madeline Goguen. Weeks says getting vaccinated is the right thing to do. (Steve Bruce/CBC )

“Now that Madeline is done, that’s our whole family, and we’re just excited that we feel safe now,” Weeks said. 

The clinic has been set up just for kids and other community clinics will be too. With decorations from the movie Frozen and a free toy with every shot, it’s about making the kids feel more comfortable. 

“I think kids and adults too are a little bit nervous about coming and getting needles, even if they know they really want it, and need it,” said Marion Dowling, chief of nursing on P.E.I. 

“We just want to make it as welcoming as possible, and try to give them a bit of privacy with the stations, so they can sit as a family unit, and have the conversation, ask any questions they might have too, and be comfortable.” 

PEI’s chief public health officer made an appearance at the clinic on Friday. Dr. Heather Morrison said she’s pleased to see so many parents booking shots for their children. 

Chief of nursing Marion Dowling says more than 1,000 appointments were booked when vaccine registration for children opened on Tuesday. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

“I almost got goosebumps in there. There are children who are excited, there are parents who are that excited. Just to be a part of it was pretty special” Morrison said. 

In a survey by the province, about 70 per cent of parents said they would get their child vaccinated, while others said they were undecided. 

Morrison said she thinks word of mouth will convince many of them to sign up. 

“We know it can influence others if we know that your friends have booked their vaccine,” she said.

“I saw children here today wearing stickers saying, ‘I got my COVID vaccine.’ They will start talking amongst their friends that ‘I got mine, and it feels good.'”

Dr. Heather Morrison says she is getting her kids vaccinated. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

Five community clinics across P.E.I. are currently offering the vaccine for five to 11-year-olds. 

In the new year, the plan is to set up school clinics for kids in grades four to six. 

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UK COVID genomics head says new variant likely to come to UK

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It is likely that the new coronavirus variant B.1.1.529, which is spreading in South Africa, will end up in Britain, the head of the COVID-19 Genomics UK Consortium said on Friday.

A ban on flights from southern Africa came into force in Britain on Friday, and numerous other countries also restricted travel from the region.

“(B.1.1.529 is) something that I would guess is likely to be transmitted into the UK at some point, but it buys that time,” COG-UK Chair Sharon Peacock told reporters.

“I think buying time is important and it’s worthwhile, because we can find out what we need to know about that particular variant.”

Speaking at a briefing with other experts, Peacock praised the quick work of South African scientists who shared what they knew about the variant after a surge in cases centred on Gauteng province.

That early warning could be crucial in preventing the variant taking over rapidly from the Delta variant as the world’s dominant one, even as South Africa bristles at the swift imposition of barriers to travel.

“This is a different circumstance than Delta, and there might be some hope for maybe some amount of containment,” said Jeffrey Barrett, Director of the COVID-19 Genomics Initiative at the Wellcome Sanger Institute.

“The difference really is that the surveillance was so good in South Africa and other nearby countries that they found this, understood that it was a problem, and told the world extremely fast.”

S-GENE CLUE

Peacock said it was important not to assume that the variant had arisen in South Africa just because it had been detected there.

“Variants will fly under the radar in countries where there’s no sequencing capability,” she said.

A distinctive trait known as an “S-gene target failure”, which distinguishes the new variant from Delta, means that PCR tests can give a clue to the presence of the new variant without full genomic sequencing.

However, Wendy Barclay, a virologist who leads the UK National Virology Consortium G2P-UK, cautioned that some other variants also had the trait.

Many parts of Europe have been struggling with high and rising COVID rates for weeks, but Barrett said these were unlikely to be driven by B.1.1.529, even in places with less sequencing.

“They are consistently finding a mix of Delta variant, basically,” he said.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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