By Sue Tiffin
Thank goodness it was Friday, but last week millions of parents across the country were celebrating not just the end of the week, but the much-anticipated announcement of Health Canada’s approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for children five and older. While the vaccine has been available to those 16-and-older since December, and 12-and-older since May, almost 900 kids five-and-older in Haliburton County have remained unvaccinated during the ongoing pandemic (the vaccine has not yet been approved for those younger than five yet).
On Tuesday morning, vaccine bookings opened at around 8 a.m. for those in the under-12 age group. By 10 a.m., almost 70,000 appointments had been made in Ontario.
But not all parents raced to sign their kids up for appointments. Some people seemed to spend that time sharing misinformation in the form of really, really bad memes online to a dizzying degree, while others still have legitimate questions and need trustworthy sources and guidance to make an informed decision.
Dr. Natalie Bocking, the medical officer of health for Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit, was anticipating that. In a press release on Monday, she said the health unit knew some parents are questioning “the need and the safety of the vaccine.” As a result, the health unit is offering an information panel for parents to help them better understand more why vaccines are being offered to children, and how their safety has been monitored to date.
“Children can contribute to the spread of the virus at home and in other settings,” Bocking has said. “In order for us to most effectively build community protection against COVID-19, we need to get as many people across all age groups, including children, fully vaccinated.”
We know that COVID-19 vaccines have so far been effective in helping to reduce infection and potentially serious complications. We also know, like Bocking has said, that while most children are less likely to get really sick from COVID-19, there are reasons why they should be vaccinated as another way, apart from masks and social distancing, to protect themselves and others against the spread of the virus.
As we know, children have been greatly at risk of the collateral harms of the pandemic. They’ve experienced disruptions in school, social life, family life and as a result have encountered increased anxiety, isolation, exacerbated social inequities and a world turned upside down. Healthcare professionals are noting that vaccination of the school-aged population will help to keep schools open and fewer people quarantining at home, prevent the spread of COVID-19 between those vaccinated and unvaccinated and help protect the immunocompromised.
Parents need to make the best choices for their kids, but the decisions we make need to be educated and informed. The health unit’s panel can help with that, as can your family doctor.
Fast Facts on COVID-19 Vacs for Kids, the Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge district health unit’s virtual panel discussion, will take place on Thursday, Dec. 2 from 6 to 7 p.m. It’s a chance for parents to ask questions and hear from family physicians, a public health nurse and a medical officer of health to understand better the reasons why the vaccine is considered safe, effective and recommended for kids. To sign up for that discussion or to submit questions in advance, visit www.hkpr.on.ca.
Further information on how the vaccines are studied and tested, possible side effects and specific information about vaccines approved is available at www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/vaccination-children/covid-19.html. Families with children can also visit www.sickkids.ca/en/care-services/support-services/covid-19-vaccine-consult/ or call 437-881-3505 to book an appointment to speak to a paediatric registered nurse about questions and concerns.