Children account for 16.5% of all COVID-19 cases. That is around 6 million infections. And 700 children have died of it.
10 months after the first vaccine, Canada and US have now approved vaccinations for children aged 5-11. However, while some parents have already registered their children for the first dose of the vaccine, others remain hesitant. Despite the low chance of hospitalization for young children, public health experts and officials recommend vaccinations as the best option.
One Burnaby parent who spoke to 8forty for this article cited their belief that children are relatively safe from contracting the disease to explain why they are not planning to vaccinate them. “My children have a low chance of getting COVID-19,” said the mother of two six-year-olds.
While that reflects messages parents have received throughout the pandemic, Pediatrician Anna Sick-Samuels of the John Hopkins Childrens Center says that children who catch the virus can still get severe lung infections, become very sick, and require hospitalization. “The current vaccines are still effective in preventing severe illness from the delta variant of the virus,” Sick-Samuels says.
Experts also note that COVID-19 can still have long-term effects on children even with hospitalization. These long-term effects can include concentration issues and sensory disturbances that may impact children’s ability to learn. Other impacts are more physical: some children have had long term problems with fatigue, joint pains, headaches and breathing. Another concern is a potential long-term weakening of the immune system which could lead to further infections in the future.
Furthermore, Sick-Samuels and her colleague John Hopkins notes that children exposed to COVID-19 who are vaccinated are less likely to get infected. This helps protect others such as their grandparents who may have a very low immune response which can cause them to have a higher chance of being infected with COVID and worse outcomes.
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer, said the under-12 age group currently account for most of the new cases of COVID-19 across all age groups in the country. On November 17 Canada health gave approval of the vaccine for kids 5-12. The vaccine is one third of the vaccine used on adults.
On November 23 the first group of kids got their COVID vaccine in Toronto. Docter Eileen de villa says “You can feel the joy and relief of the parents knowing that their kids are vaccinated. Ontario has stated that they will not be enforcing a vaccine passport on children under 12.
Over 350,000 kids have been added to the list people able to get vaccinated in British Columbia.
Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons