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COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy among Sask. parents still a top concern, epidemiologist says

Click to play video: 'Advice for parents hesitant about vaccines for kids'
Advice for parents hesitant about vaccines for kids
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A research group has put together an updated report on vaccine hesitancy among Saskatchewan parents who have yet to have their children receive a COVID-19 shot.

The report, CoVaRR-Net Recommendations on Vaccine Hesitancy in Children, was published Monday.

Nazeem Muhajarine, an epidemiologist at the University of Saskatchewan, is the co-author of the report. He said the updated report was important to publish given the availability of pediatric doses followed by the approval of bivalent vaccines.

“This is really a review of literature ending up with some recommendations that we did,” he explained.

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The report outlines data collected over the past nine months.

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The study broke down parents into three groups: those who wanted a vaccine for their child, those who refused, and those who are unsure whether to vaccinate their child.

In the 2017 Childhood National Immunization Coverage Survey, 17 per cent of Canadian parents were vaccine hesitant. According to Muhajarine, that number has now dropped to roughly 10 to 15 per cent but varies from province to province.

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He explained that hesitant parents are not against vaccines, but are mainly unsure about whether to get one for their child.

“They read social media and all the information that they get, you know, about vaccines. A lot of it is misinformation and disinformation along with information that is true, that is science-based. So, they have lots of questions,” he said.

“They’re not the first in line, but they are not the type who’s never going to get it – they’re in the middle. Given the right information by the right people at the right time, and in the right setting, they will likely move towards getting a vaccine,” he added.

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The report provides several recommendations on the local, provincial and federal levels, but for Muhajarine, it comes down to two:

  1. Create messaging that targets parents who are vaccine hesitant by providing the science on the effectiveness of COVID-19 pediatric doses.
  2. Use trusted community and political leaders to speak up about the benefits of vaccines.

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For Muhajarine, vaccination is about protection.

“Protecting kids is important because they have a huge future in front of them. You know, they are our future. And we need to protect our kids, by any means necessary.”

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