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 Allan, a post-doctoral fellow at the Centre for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases at 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,” Allan 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 Children’s 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.
Laura Osman, The Canadian Press
Interior Health begins rolling out COVID-19 vaccines for children aged five to 11 – radionl.com
Kamloops children between the age of five and 11 will now be able to get their COVID-19 vaccine starting this week, as the province begins rolling out the vaccine to people under the age of 12.
Parents and guardians are being encouraged to register their children for the vaccine – either online or by phone at 1‑833‑838‑2323 – if they haven’t done so already. Children can be registered on or after their fifth birthday.
“We’re launching the next phase of our immunization campaign by now offering the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to children,” Interior Health interim chief medical health officer, Dr. Sue Pollock, said. “This vaccine is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 in children, which means less disruption to school and the activities children and their families enjoy.”
The lead of B.C.’s vaccine rollout, Dr. Penny Ballem, says about 365,000 children in B.C. are now eligible for the vaccine.
“This is a specially-formulated vaccine for children. The real advantage that we have, particularly in view of the last weather event, is that it’s stable at 4 C for a long period of time, 10 weeks which is a very different situation from the other vaccines we’ve been dealing with,” she said.
“Eleven year-olds will receive the pediatric vaccination. After their 12th birthday, they will be eligible for the adult dose. And if a child is 11, receives the pediatric vaccination for their first dose, and then they turn 12 within the eight-week timeframe, they will get the adult dose for their second dose.”
Similar to how it was with adults, people who have registered for the vaccine will be told by text or email when it is time to book an appointment.
“Immunizing children brings additional protection to everyone in your family,” added pediatrician Dr. Shannon Wires, in a statement. “The pediatric COVID-19 vaccine has gone through a rigorous review and approval process. It provides excellent protection and I recommend parents get their children vaccinated as soon as possible.”
For more information on registering and booking appointments with your children, go here.
For a list of all Interior Health COVID-19 immunization clinics and other resources, go here.
– With files from Colton Davies
Celltrion signs COVID-19 antibody therapy supply deals with Europe
South Korean biotech company Celltrion’s distribution arm has signed supply deals for its monoclonal antibody to treat COVID-19 with nine European countries, Celltrion Healthcare said on Tuesday.
The European Commission earlier this month approved the company’s antibody therapy Regkirona, granting marketing authorisation for adults with COVID-19 who are at increased risk of progressing to a severe condition.
The first batch of 50,000 doses will be shipped to Europe this year and the company is in talks with 47 other nations including in Asia, Central and South America and the Middle East, Celltrion said in a statement.
The antibody treatment was initially approved in South Korea and has been administered to around 25,000 local COVID-19 patients as of last week.
Laboratory-made monoclonal antibodies mimic natural antibodies in fighting off infections. Unlike vaccines, they do not rely on the body to create an immune response, and can therefore help individuals with weak or compromised immune systems.
(Reporting by Sangmi Cha; editing by Richard Pullin)
What you need to know about the coronavirus right now
Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Hong Kong expands travel curbs, Australia reports 5 cases
Hong Kong expanded a ban on entry for non-residents from several countries as global health authorities raced to curb a potential outbreak of the Omicron virus, while Australia’s cabinet will review containment steps on Tuesday after five tested positive.
Omicron – first reported in southern Africa and which the World Health Organization (WHO) said carries a “very high” risk of infection surges – has triggered global alarm, with border closures casting a shadow over a nascent economic recovery from a two-year pandemic. In Australia, the five travellers with Omicron are all vaccinated and in quarantine, health officials said, adding they are asymptomatic or display very mild symptoms.
Vaccine makers start work on Omicron-tailored shots
BioNTech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson are working on vaccines that specifically target Omicron in case their existing shots are not effective against the new coronavirus variant, the companies said on Monday.
A top South African infectious disease expert said Omicron appears to be more transmissible than previous variants, including to people with immunity from vaccination or prior infection.
China’s Xi pledges another 1 bln vaccine doses for Africa
China will deliver another 1 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Africa and encourage Chinese companies to invest no less than $10 billion in the continent over the next three years, President Xi Jinping said on Monday.
China’s imports from Africa, one of its key sources of crude oil and minerals, will reach $300 billion in the next three years, Xi said, adding that the two sides would cooperate in areas such as health, digital innovation, trade promotion and green development.
Coronavirus reinfections rarely severe
Reinfections with the virus that causes COVID-19 are rarely severe, new findings suggest. Researchers in Qatar compared 1,304 individuals with a second SARS-CoV-2 infection against 6,520 people infected with the virus for the first time. Reinfected patients were 90% less likely to be hospitalised compared to patients infected for the first time, and no one in the study with a second infection required intensive care or died from COVID-19, said Dr. Laith Jamal Abu-Raddad of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar in Doha.
“Nearly all reinfections were mild, perhaps because of immune memory that prevented deterioration of the infection to more severe outcomes,” he said. It is not clear how long immune protection against severe reinfection would last, the researchers noted. If it does last for a long time, they speculate, it might mean that as the coronavirus becomes endemic, infections could become “more benign.”
Experimental smartwatch COVID-19 detection improving
Smartwatch alerting systems for early detection of COVID-19 infection are coming closer to reality, researchers reported on Monday in Nature Medicine. They tested their new system, developed with open-source software, in 2,155 wearers of Fitbit, Apple Watch, Garmin watches or other devices. Ultimately, 84 of the volunteers were diagnosed with coronavirus infections – including 14 of 18 people without symptoms.
Overall, the researchers’ algorithms generated alerts in 67 (80%) of the infected individuals, on average three days before symptoms began. “This is the first time, to our knowledge, that asymptomatic detection has been shown for COVID-19,” they said. Presently, the system mainly depends on measurements of wearers’ resting heart rate, said study leader Michael Snyder of Stanford University School of Medicine in California. When watches can report other health data such as heart rate variability, respiration rate, skin temperature, and oxygen levels, it will become easier to distinguish the COVID-19 cases from other non-COVID-19 events, researchers said.
(Compiled by Karishma Singh; Editing by Jacqueline Wong)
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