Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Children’s vaccine rates still low, despite widespread spread of the Omicron variant

Ottawa – The timing of the Omicron outbreak in Canada may have dented the use of pediatric vaccines at a time when children need them most.

A child-sized dose of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was approved for children ages five to 11 on November 19, 2021, and several provinces began injections the following week, such as the highly infectious Omicron in Canada. The first cases of the variant appeared.

Vaccine hitchhiking expert Kate Allen previously warned that parents would be slower to vaccinate their five- to 11-year-olds than to vaccinate themselves or their older children, because parents are more likely to be involved when it comes to younger children. are alert.

But the vaccine rate is lower than he expected, even though the evidence has been positive about the safety of the shot for children.

In the two months after approval, only 51 percent of children in that age group received at least one dose.

That compares with more than 72 percent of 12 to 17-year-olds who got at least one jab two months after most provinces introduced them.

“I think the public health community’s perception was probably that there would be a little bit faster than that,” said Allen, a post-doctoral research fellow in the Center for Vaccine Preventable Disease at the University of Toronto.

One reason may be that provinces began offering pediatric doses of the vaccine as soon as the Omicron version of COVID-19 began to spread.

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The highly transmissible and relatively less severe variant has now ripped through Canadian communities, leading to a major shift toward offering booster shots to protect adults and older populations.

“I think there was a real focus on that, and so maybe a little bit of attention has been diverted from the five- to 11-year-old population,” Allen said.

It might be changing now.

Last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau warned that vaccine rates among children were “very low”.

“We need to do what’s right,” Trudeau said in a press briefing last week. “That means our kids are getting vaccinated.”

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam also expressed concern last week, suggesting that the government needs to investigate why more parents are not vaccinating their children.

Pediatric infectious disease specialist sitting on the COVID-19 Immunity Taskforce, Dr. Jim Kellner said a number of setbacks could be attributed to the poor timing of the Omicron wave, including pandemic fatigue.

He said governments have focused on providing boosters, but many jurisdictions have not placed enough emphasis on ensuring that children’s supplements are accessible to families.

For example, in Alberta, where the vaccination rate among children is the lowest in the country at 42 percent, the province is largely dependent on vaccine clinics, he said.

Kellner and Allen agree that allowing kids to get their shots from a family doctor or pharmacy could go a long way toward making vaccines more accessible by offering more mobile and school clinics. Is.

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A change in messaging may also be in order, Kellner said.

Many parents are under the impression that contracting Omicron is unavoidable, that a vaccine will no longer prevent transmission and that since children are at low risk in the first place, there is no point in putting them through a needlework test. .

But Omicron has increased hospitalizations among young children nationwide, and vaccines can prevent the worst outcomes, Kellner said.

While the number of young children in hospitals related to COVID-19 is less than two per cent, the total number of people in need of care has risen to 10,588 as of January 17.

This means that more and more children have become very ill.

“These kids are so sick that they have to be hospitalised,” he said.

While some children are especially vulnerable because they have underlying conditions, this is not the case for all who end up in a hospital bed. Kellner said it is difficult to predict who will be hardest hit.

So far, public health officials and politicians have reinforced the message that people must get vaccinated to protect their communities. But Kellner said the focus should change.

“The main reason to vaccinate a child is for the parent to protect that child,” he said.

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


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