COVID-19 vaccine uptake for young Ontario children lower than experts had expected

The relatively small number of children under five who are vaccinated against COVID-19 in Ontario is less than many experts expected.

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Shots for the youngest age group are available for two months, but only six percent of those children have received their first dose.

Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, said this is less than the number he thought he would see up to this point.

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“I certainly want more families to consider vaccinating their children from six months to four years of age,” in particular, high-risk children, he said in an interview.

“We know that we have more than five percent of children with an underlying medical illness that could predispose them to a worse outcome associated with COVID and encourage those parents to consider having a conversation with their health care provider. would fully encourage. risks and benefits. ,

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Revath Devanandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa, said there are a lot of factors at play that potentially feed into lower uptake, but he still expects higher numbers.

“I’m not surprised it’s low, I’m surprised it’s so low,” he said.

Many people believe false narratives that the pandemic is over and children do not get sick when they are infected with COVID-19, said Devanandan, who misinformed about the side effects of the vaccine. Also pointed.

Devanandan said the way the message about the safety and efficacy of the vaccine is conveyed to the parents is what matters.

“It has to be said, ‘Parents, it’s your decision and I want to give you all the transparent information I can so you can make a good choice here,’” he said.

“It’s a delicate balancing act here that we have to do when talking about this. You don’t want to come across as forcefully inserting something foreign into your child’s body, because we see the population rely on that kind of narrative.” We don’t want to come across as cowards trying to force the world to lockdown again…. But at the same time, you just want to advocate for holistic child health.”

The city of Toronto pulled out a series of videos this week about COVID-19 vaccinations for children, when a contained child could not go outside to play with friends if they were unvaccinated.

“This video missed the mark of that message and should not have been posted,” spokesman Brad Ross wrote in a statement.

“A series of five videos directed at parents and caregivers about children’s vaccines are curated, while each is reviewed to ensure the message is clear and unambiguous: Vaccines for children are available and they are safe.”

Pediatricians are the ones parents should be listening to now, Devanandan said.

“No one trusts epidemiologists anymore,” he said. “They no longer have faith in government doctors. Now no one trusts virologists. They only trust their child’s pediatrician, and that is the people who have to have this conversation. ,

Moore said the province is hearing from parents that face-to-face conversations are the most effective communication tool.

“When you go to visit your primary care provider, your pediatrician, you are getting your standard vaccinations at two months, four months, six months, 12, 15, 18 months – all of them for families with COVID-19. There are opportunities to ask questions about vaccination,” he said.

“We have to work to continue our (official) message. This will intensify as we move indoors and head towards the fall as we think the risk of transmission will increase. ,

Dr. Paul Rumeliotis, medical officer of health for the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, said he expects vaccinations for young children to accelerate through the fall, as he projected an overall increase of about 25 to 30 percent.

He attributed the slow start to the rollout during the summer, misinformation about the vaccine, as well as a general hesitation from parents about children of that age.

“I’m a pediatrician, I know that parents are always hesitant — especially for young children and infants — whether it’s vaccinations, or any medications that come out,” he said.

“One message we need to convey to people is that although this vaccine is not as effective as we would like it to be for person-to-person transmission, it is certainly highly effective against serious disease and complications. “

There is also a complacency factor, said Dr Anna Banerjee, a pediatrician, infectious disease specialist and associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“(People think), ‘Oh COVID isn’t that bad. It’s just a mild cold in little kids, I don’t have to worry about it,’” she said.

“There’s a lot, I think, in denial that children, especially young children, can get it and become very, very seriously ill from it.”

Public Health Ontario, in its most recent report, said there was a significant increase in hospitalizations for infants under one year of age, with 17 children for the week of September 4 to September 10, compared with eight in the previous week. . Since the start of the pandemic, 1,268 children in that age group have been hospitalized for COVID-19 – a much higher rate than older children and adolescents.

Banerjee said children have a fairly good chance of catching COVID-19 now that schools are back in session, and it’s not just the immediate and potentially long-term effects on young children that parents should be aware of. Should be kept in mind.

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