Talk to your doctor: The fight against misinformation as COVID-19 vaccine for kids nears

Click to play video: 'Fight against misinformation as COVID-19 vaccine for kids nears' Fight against misinformation as COVID-19 vaccine for kids nears
WATCH: What parents need to know about COVID-19 vaccines for kids – Nov 6, 2021

With Canadian approval of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children potentially just weeks away, parents have plenty of questions — both about the vaccine itself and how to prepare their kids to receive it, should they opt to.

ScienceUpFirst, a national initiative put together by science educators, COVID-19 experts and the Health Law Institute at the University of Alberta, is hoping to help them cut through the noise and misinformation and make an educated decision.

Read more: U.S. approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5-11, rollout could start Wednesday

“There’s a lot of information going out on social media and in the news, and some of that is from really great sources … really backed by science, and some of it is misinformation that can really take off and take on a life of their own,” said ScienceUpFirst spokesperson Dr. Katie Birnie, who is also a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Calgary.

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“It’s really important to seek information that’s relevant for your own child … The best advice is actually to talk to a health-care professional who knows your family, who knows your child’s medical history, and get advice from them.”

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Children account for most new COVID-19 cases in Canada – Nov 5, 2021

While talking to your doctor is your best option, Birnie said online portals like ScienceUpFirst’s, which includes expert-vetted information and tools to debunk misinformation, can also help parents feel at ease.

Birnie said parents can also prepare for the vaccine rollout by talking about it with their kids ahead of time to help ease any fear of needles or pain.

Read more: Children under 12 leading new COVID-19 infections across Canada: PHAC

When the time comes to get their shot, she said simple tactics like offering them a video or music to distract them can be effective. For children with stronger fears of needles, she said it may be worthwhile to talk to a mental health expert ahead of time.

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On Friday, the Public Health Agency of Canada said children under 12 are now the category that is leading new COVID-19 infections in Canada.

Children under the age of 12, who cannot yet be vaccinated in Canada, make up about half of the estimated 500,000 British Columbians who have yet to be immunized.

Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine has already begun to roll out in the U.S. for children aged five to 11. Health Canada has received Pfizer’s application and said this week its review would “take weeks.”

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When will Canada approve COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged 5-11? – Nov 3, 2021

Kyenta Martins, spokesperson for the Safe Schools Coalition, said she’s hoping the vaccine is approved sooner than later — particularly given that the province has opted not to mandate vaccines for school staff.

Several of the province’s largest school districts, including Vancouver and Surrey, have already indicated that they won’t mandate vaccines either.

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“We are very eager. We had our 12-year-old vaccinated — her wish was as soon as possible,” Martins said.

Read more: B.C. parents urged to register kids for COVID-19 vaccine as U.S. green lights Pfizer

“Our 10-year-old is feeling exactly the same way: she misses her friends, she misses being able to socialize, she wants to go back to school and she wants to have the protections the rest of her family has.”

Martins said she understands that parents have varying comfort levels when it comes to the vaccine.

“I do recognize it’s a new vaccine, and I guess there’s always sort of risks with that. However, globally, we’ve come together and researched and tested and studied those vaccines and I’m comfortable with that,” she said.

“I also recognize there are a lot of risks from COVID, and that is a risk I’m not willing to take.”

While it is unclear exactly when Canadian health officials could give the green light to immunize children younger than 12, B.C. health officials have been encouraging parents to register their kids ahead of time to ensure a smooth rollout once the vaccine is available.

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