The rate for COVID-19 vaccinations in children ages 5 to 11 is lagging. Only 40 per cent of children in Canada in this age group have had both shots of their primary series. In Nova Scotia, it is about 45 per cent.
Despite the recent rise of COVID-19 cases in this age group, some families still hesitate to start or complete their child’s COVID-19 vaccinations. In this blog post, Dr. Joanne Langley, co-chair of the Canadian COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force and head of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at the IWK Health Centre, addresses some of the myths that contribute to this hesitancy.
Myth #1: Children don’t need the COVID-19 vaccine because they only experience mild symptoms if infected.
There is no guarantee a child will only have mild symptoms.
“There are two periods in your COVID illness if you’re a child that are important,” says Dr. Langley. The days immediately following an infection is the acute illness period. While it’s true many children may have mild symptoms, there is still a risk that any child can develop more serious illness with severe outcomes.
The second period in children is about four weeks after infection when they are at risk to develop multi-system inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). This is a more severe inflammatory reaction that develops in the body. Symptoms include fever, rashes, red eyes, diarrhea and vomiting. MIS-C can affect the heart, blood vessels and other organs, and some children may require urgent care.
Myth #2: The processes to develop and approve COVID-19 vaccines were rushed.
Typical vaccine development is like a relay race, Dr. Langley explains. Animal studies are conducted, results come in, the baton is handed off to the protocols and phase one studies teams. When their results come in, the baton is once again handed off, this time to the phase two studies teams, and so on.
That can take years,” she says. “For COVID-19, they started manufacturing the vaccines at the same time they were starting the big clinical trials because they knew people’s lives would be lost if they waited.”
In other words, the development of the COVID-19 vaccines was the kind of race where all the processes began at the starting line at the same time, called a rolling approach. “Operation: Warp Speed funded six vaccine platforms. That’s the approach you take to a public health emergency because you don’t know which one is going to turn out to be a safe and effective vaccine at the clinical trial.”
Myth #3: One dose of the vaccine is enough protection.
Your child will have the best protection with two doses, says Dr. Langley. “One dose offers some protection but it’s incomplete. They are at more risk from the old strain, and also more at risk for the variants.”
Children with two doses are not only better protected themselves, they can better protect others by being less likely to infect others.
“The general principle is if you have some vaccine protection, you’re less likely to be sick and less likely to have enough of a virus load in your system that you would spread it. Vaccines decrease the chance that you will infect others.”
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