Parents differ on COVID-19 vaccine for childrenSunday, August 01, 2021
BY KIMBERLEY HIBBERT
JUST one age group remains to qualify for a COVID-19 vaccine and become part of the target population for the Government's vaccination blitz — young children.
With the possibility of the resumption of face-to-face classes come September, and with clinical trials under way for a vaccine suitable for children under age 12, there are mixed views among parents about whether to get their children vaccinated should they be included in the target population locally.
When asked if he would have his children vaccinated before sending them to face-to-face classes, should schools fully resume that mode of learning, Leroy Franklin, a father of two, said while he would prefer more definitive scientific evidence that the vaccines are effective, the child's health care provider will be influential in his decision.
“I would prefer proof that the vaccine is very effective for kids their age — six years and 18 months — and that their doctor agrees that it is safe for them,” Franklin told the Jamaica Observer.
Stefanie Hamilton, when asked the same question, made the point about having more research available before making such a decision.
“On a normal basis that would be appropriate. However, normally for me and my children the vaccines we received underwent more research and trials by the time we needed to take them. I am against my children receiving this particular vaccine and as such I prefer to homeschool them,” she said.
Another parent said she would rather see a greater take-up in the adult population before the radar is moved to children.
“We are not aware of the long-term side effects of the vaccine. Vaccinate the adults and then when more information is available we can extend to the children,” she said.
Aside from the recommendation of their child's health provider, one parent expressed concern that the evidence relating to the COVID-19 vaccine was inconclusive and there was no guarantee they would not be infected.
“It's a classic case of the emperor's new clothes. If push comes to shove they will be homeschooled totally. That's what we did last term,” she said.
“They keep saying it [COVID-19 vaccine] can't prevent you from being infected, only that you might not end up dead if infected. What are the odds? Never heard of a vaccine that don't protect or prevent. Sick of them and their agendas,” she said.
Beres Andre Tomlinson, in his response, said he did not think it was necessary for children to take the vaccine if they can still get the virus. “They are young and their immune system is still developing, so it's a no no for me,” he said.
A parent, who gave her name only as Michelle, argued that if schools resume face-to-face instruction she will support children being vaccinated.
“You can't logically link vaccines to the resumption of school, because you'll never get full take-up. My older child was vaccinated, not because it was that important to me, but because she wanted it. She wanted it badly, because she's sensible and she wants to protect herself. It doesn't impact my feelings about the need for face-to-face, or whether teachers should be vaccinated, or anything like that, because you'll never be able to get through to some people. School need fi open,” she said.
“My younger child has been going to kindergarten since daycares resumed operating — months now, and I've had no issues. I'm pro face-to-face, vaccine or not. Even if my child wasn't vaccinated, she'd still be returning to school face-to-face because I can't hinge her future on whether other people are vaccinated or not. I honestly wish I could afford to send them both to AISK (American International School of Kingston) and get them out of the public system, because this dilly dallying is irritating, and I can't afford for my child to be dunce just because people can't make up their minds about vaccines or whatever,” the mother said.
Viveen Burrowes-Campbell, however, said if a vaccine is approved for children she would not delay getting her children inoculated.
“I would not hesitate since the rest of the family is already vaccinated. In the end, it's for the protection against serious illness,” she said.
For Tracey-Ann Evans, more research is needed to determine what effect, if any, the COVID-19 vaccine would have on children, especially because children “don't always follow protocols”.
Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Jacquiline Bissasor McKenzie told a recent Kiwanis Club of Downtown Kingston meeting that while children have been affected with COVID-19 and some have had poor outcomes, the under-18 age group is not an immediate target population. Instead, the country's approach to vaccination remains the vulnerable groups.
The CMO further explained that there are certain circumstances that might eventually mean that some children under 18 will be targeted for vaccination against COVID-19.
“There are certain vulnerable groups within that under-18 age group, those persons with chronic illnesses, with comorbidities that will make them more liable to have a serious illness that we will have to target. We do have some special situations where we will have to consider under 18 persons that are travelling to school, to national events,” she said.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, so unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers.
The WHO also said more evidence is needed on the use of the different COVID-19 vaccines in children to be able to make general recommendations on vaccinating children. The agency also indicated that its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) has concluded that the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine is suitable for use by people aged 12 years and above.
The WHO said children aged between 12 and 15 who are at high risk may be offered this vaccine alongside other priority groups for vaccination, however, vaccine trials for children are ongoing and WHO will update its recommendations when the evidence or epidemiological situation warrants a change in policy.
Dr Bissasor McKenzie added: “Once we have the Pfizer [vaccine], it won't be right away a opening up to the 12 to 18 age group, but there will be certain selective groups under 18 that we will address. But, our target is still to get the over 18 persons vaccinated. If you do look at where we are in terms of the numbers we present that show where we are getting the positive cases from, we know that the positive cases and the severe illnesses and deaths occur in the over 60. But we do know that we have high numbers in the 40 to 59 age group that also have a high amount of comorbid illnesses, and yet our highest numbers in terms of those who are affected by COVID positive tests are coming from the 20 to 29 and 30 to 39 age group. So you can see why the over 18 is our priority in terms of getting those vaccinated and why we would not necessarily throw out right away to say that we are going to vaccinate the 12 to 18 group.”
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