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Local doctors tackle myths and concerns in vaccinating children

'Getting kids immunized is the next big step to help move us from where we are now to our post pandemic future'

With children from five to 11 now eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccine in Canada, parents have had numerous concerns and questions regarding safety, processes and myths floating around.

“Without vaccinating kids, we really won't get COVID-19 under any significant control,” said primary care physician Dr. Anne-Marie Zajdlik during the webinar, Finding the Balance during COVID-19 on Tuesday evening aimed to tackle local concerns with children getting the COVID vaccine.

Community members also heard from Dr. Matthew Tenenbaum, associate medical officer of health for WDG Public Health and Helen Fishburn, CEO of the CMHA Waterloo Wellington. 

Zajdlik said it's important for people to understand that there are many reasons to vaccinate children. She pointed out that Ontario had over 600 COVID cases on Tuesday and one third of those cases were in children meaning they are actively spreading the virus among one another and others in the community. 

Tenenbaum said in the last two years, the community has seen a dramatic impact that vaccines made in reducing the spread of COVID, reducing risk of complications and reducing death. He said it's a shame that we haven’t had the ability to vaccinate children until now. 

“We know that children in our community have been experiencing COVID. We don't often talk about some of the ways they're experiencing the pandemic but they have borne a lot of the brunt — both the infection itself but also the measures,” said Tenenbaum. 

“Getting kids immunized is the next big step to help move us from where we are now to our post pandemic future,” he said. 

In addressing concerns with vaccinating prepubescent children, Tenenbaum said Health Canada would not have approved the vaccine for children if they weren't safe and effective, which they deemed through their studies. He said the benefits of getting immunized outweighed any potential risks for each individual person getting the vaccine.

Zajdlik assured parents that a pediatric dose — which is a third of a regular dose — is effective for children who hit puberty early and have adult bodies.

She said with three million children vaccinated in the US, there have been no signs of adverse or life threatening effects, no serious side effects and no myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) cases. 

Zajdlik also assured parents that it is okay for a child to get a flu shot at the same time as the COVID vaccine. 

“You may not want to overwhelm your child's immune system although children are handling the vaccine so well, but it is okay to have the COVID vaccine on the same day which means there doesn't need to be a time interval between the COVID vaccine and the flu shot,” said Zajdlik. 

Tenanbaum said there's no reason to worry that if the flu shot and the COVID vaccine are taken together, they would be less effective or result in any safety risk. 

For children who are between the ages of 11 and 12 between their two doses, Tenenbaum recommended getting the vaccine that is age appropriate which would be a third of a dose for an 11 year old and then a full dose when the child turns 12 in time for their second dose. 

Fishburn said when dealing with anxiety in children in relation to the vaccine, it's important to prepare them by being honest, giving them confidence and communicating to them that it's okay to be anxious. 

“So remember, as a parent, it's always about protecting your child even though that one small poke might hurt. It is so worth the protection it will provide from this nasty illness,” said Fishburn. 

He said WDG Public Health will be delivering vaccines to pharmacies in the community and have them available as public health clinics as well. 

He said if a child is turning five between now and the end of December, they can get immunized as soon as vaccines are available for them. 

“People who are turning five next year can get the vaccine once they turn five, the question of whether we can immunize them before they're next year is a question we need to wait for an answer from the province,” said Tenenbaum. 

Fishburn said many parents are concerned about the long term implications of the COVID vaccine and there is a lot of misinformation on fertility issues. 

“It comes down to just managing your own fears, trusting the science and knowing that leaving your child unprotected is actually something that you should be more fearful of, than actually the vaccine in terms of what COVID can do.” said Fishburn. 


Anam Khan

About the Author: Anam Khan

Anam Khan is a journalist who covers numerous beats in Guelph and Wellington County that include politics, crime, features, environment and social justice
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