Vaccination reluctance among parents leads to low uptake of Covid-19 vaccinations among elementary school children nationwide.
Less than one in five children (18.3 percent) between the ages of five and 11 have received two doses of the vaccine. Beaumont Hospital’s Infectious Disease Advisor, Dr. Eoghan de Barra described this as “an alarmingly low number” given the extremely high vaccination rates among the adult population.
“But in many ways I understand the hesitation. This is a new vaccine and parents are cautious,” he added.
The low immunization rate for children is more complicated than droves of parents who simply refuse vaccinations outright.
Covid swept through national schools over the winter, meaning many children have been infected in recent months and are not yet medically allowed to receive their first or second dose. But there’s also an underlying fear of bringing something relatively unknown into your child’s body.
There are other factors at play, too, said Dr. de Barra.
“One is that the focus of the severity of the disease has shifted. People don’t believe Covid is as serious as it used to be. It is true that the risk of serious illness for children who contract Covid is rare, but it is still there. What parents also need to consider is the risk their children may pose to everyone else. There is an overall picture.
“In addition to individual protection, we have to consider societal protection. There are still many people out there who can get Covid and become seriously ill or worse.”
While Ireland’s Covid numbers begin to rise steadilycould the low vaccine uptake in younger children become a problem, added Dr. de Barra added.
“What we don’t know is what will happen next with this virus. I’ll be the happiest man in the world if nothing happens, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.
“Everyone wants to do the right thing for their kids, I understand that. The vast majority of parents are happy that other vaccinations are being given to children, but this is something new and different.
“It would be terrible if there was any further development on Covid in six months time and we wish we had had a lot more of our children vaccinated. All I can say to people is that I am completely satisfied that it is safe and appeal to people to get their children vaccinated now.”
Misinformation about vaccination of children is widespread, and contracting Covid does not protect youngsters from the virus indefinitely.
“In fact, the reinfection rate in children is much higher if they have not received a vaccine. Getting Covid doesn’t offer the level of immunity that people believe,” said Dr. de Barra.
“The long-term immunity data tells us that the most robust protection is indeed with both the vaccine and the infection. So the best protection is actually having received the vaccine and having contracted Covid, not that we are encouraging anyone to contract it. But vaccines provide an extra layer of protection.”
Should the government do more to educate parents about vaccinating their children?
“There is always more the government can do to break the news and get parents the right information. There is definitely more to do.”
Psychotherapist Enda Murphy said the obvious reason for vaccine hesitancy is parents’ instinct to protect their children at all costs.
“It’s innate in parents. They know they are not responsible if their child gets Covid. But if anything goes wrong when her child gets the vaccine, it’s her fault. Then how could you live with you?” he said.
“Parents want 100 percent certainty before vaccinating their child. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist. The more parents strive and seek certainty about safety, the more insecurity they find.”
Mr Murphy, the director of seeme.ie, a resource helping parents and children communicate, has two teenagers who have both been vaccinated.
“I asked my 13-year-old son why he thinks so many parents don’t vaccinate younger children. What he said to me was simple and made a lot of sense. He said: “At the end of the day, we ask parents to put chemicals on their child and that’s scary.”
“We live in the information age, we now have ‘Dr. Google’. It will already tell you what you are looking for. So if you have any concerns about the safety of vaccines for your children, you will find this information, even if it is misinformation.”
People today also no longer blindly accept everything medical professionals say as gospel truth, he added.
“People don’t like being told what to do and this is compounded when it comes to matters affecting their children. “Just trust us” isn’t enough anymore because there used to be trust issues with the medical profession like every other profession out there. Parents don’t always accept what doctors tell them.
“Doctors are no longer demigods in this country. Medical professionals are questioned, especially by the younger generation of parents in their 20s and 30s. And of course this is a new disease, so there aren’t all the answers.”
Some parents may feel belittled when they are “told” to vaccinate their children.
“Some parents may feel offended and judged for asking questions about the vaccine – that may also be causing a problem. What we need to do is understand why parents feel the way they do. If you try to solve a problem without understanding why, you will never find a solution.
“Parents’ fears need to be listened to, accepted, and then addressed meaningfully. The government’s approach of simply saying, ‘vaccinate your child, period’ is clearly not working.”
https://www.independent.ie/world-news/coronavirus/parents-remain-hesitant-as-just-18pc-of-kids-get-vaccine-41466636.html Parents continue to hesitate as only 18 percent of children are vaccinated