6 reasons why parents should not vaccinate their children against COVID – and how experts are responding

It appears that the longer it takes for approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for certain age groups, the less likely children in those age groups are to get the vaccination.

The Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of the vaccine for children ages 5-11 at the end of October, but after nine months, only 30% of children in that age group had been fully vaccinated. The Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines were approved in June for ages 6 months to 4 years, but only 4% of children at those ages received the first dose.

That number is likely to remain low, as a Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) COVID-19 vaccine monitoring survey released Tuesday found that 43% of parents of children aged 6 months to 4 years “definitely wouldn’t be vaccinated.” Enthusiasm for the vaccine only increases marginally from there: Another 13% said they would only vaccinate their children if asked to do so at school or nursery school, and 27% said they wanted to “wait and see how the vaccine works with other young children.” The remaining parents, who had previously vaccinated or planned to do so “immediately”, made up just 17% of the 471 fathers of children under five surveyed.

The survey also asked parents to explain their reluctance to vaccinate their children. We brought some of their most common concerns to medical experts to find out how to address them with parents. This is what they have to say:

Concern: The vaccine is “too new.”

no. 1 The concern raised by reluctant parents in the King Faisal Foundation survey was that the vaccine was “too new” or had not been adequately researched or tested.

“A vaccine is not new,” said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security.

Dr. Ruth Canthula, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at MedStar Health, explained several factors that led to the relatively rapid development of the COVID vaccine. Although you may not have heard of it before the pandemic, the mRNA technology scientists used to create the vaccine were discovered in the 1960s.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a significant infusion of funds to support clinical trials of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines,” Canthula said.

Increased money has allowed research programs to hire more staff to work across multiple sites and to help manufacture vaccines. In addition, clinical trials were able to recruit a large number of study participants, including children, in a short period of time. This allows for a review of vaccine safety and efficacy data sooner than previous vaccine trials. “

Adalja also noted that modernity is not a reliable substitute for danger. “Just because something is new, it’s not evidence that it’s unsafe,” he said, adding that we don’t hesitate to buy the latest iPhone due to safety concerns.

“At some point, every piece of technology that improves human life was new,” Adalja said.

Concern: I am concerned about the side effects.

No one wants to see their child in pain or discomfort, but side effects such as fever and soreness at the injection site are fairly common after many vaccinations. This can happen with a COVID-19 shot and tends to pass quickly.

Parents may also worry about scary side effects they’ve heard people talk about or seen on social media. There have been reports in the past year, for example, of myocarditis and pericarditis (inflammation of the myocarditis and the lining surrounding the heart, respectively) mainly in young adults after the second dose of the vaccine. That sounds scary, but most patients recovered quickly, and the incidence was very low: the highest rate, among 16- to 17-year-old males, was 105.9 cases per million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. This represents a risk of 0.0001% much lower than the risk of complications from COVID-19.

Concern: COVID-19 is usually mild in young children.

Fortunately, it is true that COVID-19 infections in children are generally mild. Rarely, the infection can lead to the kind of symptoms that could lead a child to hospital. But Adalja asks this question: “Why not reduce any of her risks with a safe vaccine?”

He explained that diseases such as rotavirus and chickenpox rarely cause severe disease, yet we routinely vaccinate against these diseases.

Just because cases are generally mild does not mean that problems cannot occur. When infections with the omicron rose last winter, so did hospitalizations of children. Nine out of 10 children ages 5 to 11 who were hospitalized during an Omicron wave were not vaccinated – meaning their hospitalization could have been prevented.

“Yes, children tend to have milder infections,” Canthula said. “However, children are still at risk of developing severe infections that require hospitalization, supplemental oxygen, and the possibility of breathing tube placement.”

Furthermore, “pediatricians are limited in terms of medications we can use to treat COVID-19 infection in children,” Canthula added. Treatments such as Paxlovid and monoclonal antibodies are only approved for ages 12 and older.

There is also a small but real risk of MISC-C, a condition in which COVID-19 infection precedes the body’s immune response that causes inflammation of the heart, lungs, kidneys, or other organs. Vaccination provides protection against this serious complication.

A recent study found that 6% of children seen in emergency departments who tested positive for COVID-19 reported after 90 days that they had prolonged COVID symptoms such as fatigue, lethargy and cough. Children so sick that they were hospitalized were more likely to report prolonged COVID symptoms. By preventing severe illness, the vaccine protects children from COVID for a long time.

Concern: The vaccine is not very effective.

I’ve heard many people talk about their children who have been vaccinated with COVID-19. While it is true that a child or adult may continue to be tested for COVID after vaccination, this is not the most important measure of a vaccine’s effectiveness.

Vaccination provides powerful protection against severe diseases and complications. If your vaccinated child has COVID-19, Adalja said, “they are unlikely to need hospitalization.” He pointed out that this is the real goal of vaccination.

“What we’re really trying to prevent is a serious disease,” he said.

Concern: My child has contracted COVID-19.

At this point in the pandemic, the majority of children have contracted COVID-19. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that by February 2022, 75% of children and teens had antibodies, indicating a previous infection.

Since infection provides temporary protection from disease, parents may wonder if it is still worth vaccinating their children. Experts confirm that it is.

“Hybrid immunity,” Adalja said, meaning from previous infection and vaccination, is “the best type of immunity you have,” and offers the most protection against multiple variants of the disease.

Anxiety: I am confused about the dosages.

Some parents are confused about the varying doses of children’s vaccines. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, for example, is given in two 10 mcg doses to children 5-11 years old, and three 3 mcg doses to children 6 months to 4 years old. However, a 4-year-old and a 5-year-old don’t differ in size much, and a parent might wonder, for example, if they should wait until the child is five in order to get a higher dose.

But the doses do not depend on the weight of the child. “The doses are based on the minimum dose of the vaccine needed to elicit an adequate immune response,” Adalja said, noting that it “took a long time for kids between the ages of 5 and 11 because they were trying to get the doses right” in order to minimize side effects. .

“As a pediatrician, I know that children are not very young adults and that one dose of the vaccine does not suit everyone. Children have different physiological and immune responses depending on their age,” Canthula said.

For some, there are other barriers to getting their children vaccinated.

One of the biggest predictors of whether or not a child will be vaccinated has nothing to do with their health. The KFF survey found that parents who identified as Republican or Republican were more likely to say they “absolutely not” plan to vaccinate their children.

Other parents’ concerns were less ideological and more financial or logistical. The survey found that 44% of black parents with children aged 6 months to 4 years are concerned about needing to take time away from work to vaccinate or care for their children if they have side effects. And 45% of Hispanic parents with children of the same ages said they were concerned about not being able to vaccinate their children in a “place they trust.”

One potentially hopeful outcome is that 70% of parents of children aged 6 months to 4 years said they had not yet spoken to their pediatrician about immunizing their children, meaning that health care providers may have a chance to assuage families’ concerns in person when They bring the children for examinations. But there is no need to wait for your annual visit. If you have questions about the vaccine, call your pediatrician and make an appointment to discuss them.

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