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TORONTO – The number of children under the age of five who are vaccinated against COVID-19 in Ontario is far lower than many experts expected.

The shots for the youngest age group have been available for two months, but only about six percent of those children received their first dose.

The health officer of Ontario, Dr. Kieran Moore, said that was less than the numbers he thought he would see at this point.

“I definitely want more families to consider vaccinating their children from six months to four years of age,” especially, high-risk children, he said in an interview.

“We know that we have a higher than 5% percentage of children with disease that we would put forward to have an adverse outcome associated with COVID and we would strongly encourage those parents to consider talking to your health care provider about the risks and benefits.”

Raywat Deonandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor in the faculty of health sciences at the University of Ottawa, said there are many things in play that could potentially eat small people, but he still expects a high number right now.

“I’m not surprised it’s low, I’m surprised it’s this low,” he said.

Many people believe the fake news that the epidemic is over and that children do not get sick if they get infected with COVID-19, said Deonandan, who also exposed false information about the negative effects of the vaccine.

How messages about vaccine safety and efficacy are conveyed in parenting matters, Deonandan said.

“This should be explained as, ‘Parents, this is your decision to make and I want to give you all the clear information I can find so that you can make the right choice here,'” he said.

It is a serious balancing act here that we have to do when we talk about this. You don’t want to seem like you’re forcing something foreign into your child’s body, as we see a lot of people are very sensitive to that kind of narrative. We don’t want to come across as fearful people trying to force the world to go back into Lockdown…. But at the same time, you just want to promote the overall health of the child. “

The city of Toronto has pulled a series of videos this week about children being vaccinated against COVID-19 after one child said he couldn’t go out to play with friends if he wasn’t vaccinated.

“This video misses the mark in that message and should not have been posted,” his spokesman Brad Ross wrote in a statement.

“A series of five videos aimed at parents and caregivers about childhood vaccines has been temporarily suspended while each one is reviewed to ensure the messages are clear and concise: vaccines are available for children and are safe.”

Pediatricians are the ones parents should be listening to right now, Deonandan said.

“No one trusts epidemiologists anymore,” he said. “They no longer trust government doctors. No one trusts virologists anymore. They only trust their pediatrician, and they are the people who should be having this conversation.”

Moore said the province is hearing from parents that one-on-one conversations are the most effective communication tool.

“When you visit your primary care provider, your pediatrician, you get your routine vaccinations at two months, four months, six months, 12, 15, 18 months – those are all opportunities for families to ask questions about the COVID vaccination,” she said.

“We have work to do to continue our (official) message. It will accelerate as we move indoors towards autumn as we realize that the risk of infection will increase. “

Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, chief of health at the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, said he hoped vaccinations for young children would pick up in the fall, as he expected about 25 to 30 per cent uptake.

He cited a slow start to summer vaccinations, misinformation about the vaccine, and general skepticism from parents when it comes to children of that age.

“I’m a pediatrician, I know that parents are always hesitant – especially for young children and babies – whether it’s vaccination, or any medicine that comes out,” she said.

“One of the messages we need to tell people is that although this vaccine is not as effective as we would like it to be, it is very effective in fighting serious diseases and their complications.”

Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatrician, infectious disease specialist and associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said there is also an element of complacency.

(People think), ‘Oh COVID is not that bad. The cold is only for small children, I don’t need to worry about it,” she said.

“It’s a lot, I think, to deny that kids, especially young kids, can get it and get very, very sick from that.”

Public Health Ontario said in its most recent report that there was a significant increase in hospitalizations for infants under one year of age, with 17 children in the week of September 4 to September 10 compared to eight the previous week. Since the start of the pandemic, 1,268 children in that group have been hospitalized for COVID-19 – a much higher rate than both older and younger children.

Children have a better chance of catching COVID-19 now that schools are back, and it’s not just the immediate and possible long-term effects on the children themselves that parents should keep in mind, Banerji said.

“(They) can also spread it to other children, they can spread it at home, they can spread it to their grandparents,” she said.

“It is something that can have a big impact on a person’s life. So I can do what I can to reduce the risk of infection, which is really the goal. “

This Canadian Press report was originally published on September 22, 2022.

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