COVID-19 – Fewer children vaccinated than expected: why are parents hesitating?

Vaccination against COVID-19 in children aged 5 to 11 has stalled in recent weeks. Why?

January 17, 2022 | Vaccination against COVID-19 in children aged 5 to 11 has stalled in recent weeks. How to explain the reluctance of some parents to vaccinate their children? New INSPQ data provide some answers.

According to the National Institute of Public Health (INSPQ), 58.4% of children aged 5 to 11 years had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine January 16. This proportion is lower than that observed for other vaccines, highlights Ève Dubé, a medical anthropologist at INSPQ. “If we want to compare with other vaccines for children of this age, we can look at those given in 4th grade against HPV and hepatitis A and B. The vaccination rate is then 85% to 90%. Therefore, this is much higher than the proportion of children currently vaccinated against COVID-19. »

According to the researcher, this situation could be explained by the way parents perceive the risks of COVID-19. “According to our surveys, the fact that COVID-19 is not usually serious in young people is the main reason why you do not intend to vaccinate your child “, mentions. In fact, data published by INSPQ on January 11 revealed that 38% of parents who do not want to vaccinate their child do not see the need to do so, because they consider the risks of COVID-19 to be low.

The second reason mentioned by parents of children aged 5 to 11 years is fear of possible side effects of the vaccine. This fear is more present among this group of parents than among parents aged 12 to 17 (16% vs. 7%). Therefore, parents of young children may consider them more fragile. “They will be less concerned about a teenager who has almost the build of an adult than about a little 5-year-old,” confirms Ève Dubé. Also, this is a reason often cited by hesitant parents when it comes to vaccinating young babies. »

Slight increase in vaccination intentions

According to INSPQ data, the proportion of parents who totally or partially agree that their child be vaccinated against COVID-19 increased from 63% in October to 74% in January. “We see a slight increase in favorable intention, confirms Ève Dubé. Usually when a new vaccine comes out the intent is low at first and then over time it goes up and becomes more and more favourable. However, this is not what we observe with the COVID-19 vaccine. There was a lot of fluctuation. For example, there was a somewhat surprising decrease during the fall. »

However, several factors may explain the renewed popularity of the vaccine in recent weeks. ” The current epidemiological situation with the arrival of the omicron variant may have influenced the parents’ decision to vaccinate their child. comments Ève Dubé.

In addition, the fact that the number of vaccinated children is increasing can also help parents make a decision. ” The more people around us are vaccinating their children, the more reassuring it is, says the researcher. When the program was first announced, we only had data from clinical trials conducted on a few thousand children. The United States went ahead with its program and the number of children vaccinated increased rapidly. »

Make vaccination more accessible

In an article published in Le Devoir, we learned that the proportion of vaccinated children varies greatly from school to school on the island of Montreal. According to Ève Dubé, certain groups may be more suspicious of vaccination or of the government. The proportion of children vaccinated is also often a reflection of vaccination among adults in the area. “If a person does not get vaccinated, the probability that their child will be vaccinated is very low,” says the researcher.

Furthermore, some cultural communities are not reached by the tools developed by the government. ” If these tools are not available in the language they are most comfortable with, they may miss out on information. “, he laments.

The first thing to do, according to Ève Dubé, is therefore to reduce the barriers to access to vaccination services. ” For example, we need to make sure we reach families in your community, especially in schools.. For parents in a precarious situation, making an appointment or going to the vaccination center can be complicated. »

To increase vaccination rates, we need to focus on both easy access to vaccines and promotion and information sharing. ” It is also necessary to ensure that the parents’ concerns are fully understood and addressed. concludes Ève Dubé.

Sources: INSPQ, INSPQ and Le Devoir

Kathleen Couillard – Born and raised

Photo: GettyImages/bogdankosanovic

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