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COVID-19 vaccine and young children

Thanks to a recent decision by Health Canada, children in British Columbia older than six months are now eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations. And a recent study by UBC researchers reveals some surprising attitudes towards child vaccination from parents who remain unvaccinated.

dr Ran Goldman, professor of pediatrics at UBC, answers some questions for parents looking for more information before vaccinating their children.

What did your new study find?

Working with 21 hospitals in four countries, including Canada, we surveyed 4,500 parents and carers – 19 percent were unvaccinated, but 7 percent of those unvaccinated still said they planned to vaccinate their children. While this may seem like a small percentage, it proves that even some parents who don’t get vaccinated understand the importance of vaccines for children.

Some Parents Are Concerned About Side Effects – Should They Be?

Any vaccine will have some side effects, not just COVID vaccines. However, many studies have shown that most side effects, including soreness or redness where the injection was given, are mild. And that the risks associated with COVID far outweigh any risks associated with vaccination.

Can vaccinations weaken a child’s immune system?

No, they activate the immune system – and this is exactly what vaccines are designed for. The mRNA vaccines allow the body to develop antibodies to fight the virus and use our immune system to function in the next COVID infection, but the immune system is not drained.

dr Ran Goldman

Are children less likely to become seriously ill with COVID than other age groups?

At the beginning of the pandemic, the symptoms in children were very mild compared to the symptoms in adults, leading some parents to think it would be better for their child to get COVID and recover than get vaccinated. But we now know that some children can get very sick and 10 percent of children who get COVID actually get COVID for a long time, which is much worse and can continue to cause symptoms long after the disease has gone away.

The World Health Organization (WHO) does not recommend the vaccine for children under the age of five – so why is the vaccine considered OK for children here in Canada?

WHO provides health recommendations for the whole world and makes decisions based on a global perspective, taking into account many different populations and health systems. Here at home, Health Canada makes recommendations based solely on the Canadian context, which differs – often dramatically – from other countries. Health Canada reviewed the evidence from vaccine trials and the immunization program in Canada and found the vaccine to be safe and effective for Canadian children.

My child’s school requires vaccinations against other diseases such as polio, measles and mumps – can too many vaccines be harmful?

For many years, the medical community has worked to reduce the number of vaccinations children receive, and many vaccines are now given at the same time as the same vaccination or doctor visit. We know that our bodies and immune systems can handle several different vaccines very well without being damaged. Your doctor will know which vaccines can be combined and when to limit the number of vaccines given at the same time.

If parents remain skeptical about their child’s vaccination, who should they speak to?

You should speak to someone who has first-hand knowledge – a general practitioner, paediatrician, nurse or pharmacist. Ask questions about the vaccine, its effectiveness and the risks of COVID. Arming yourself with knowledge is important to protect your family from the virus.

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