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HKPR stresses urgency of getting young children vaccinated

DAN CEARNS, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, for The Standard

KAWARTHA LAKES: The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health unit (HKPR) is urging children to get vaccinated against COVID-19. Children under age 12 now account for the highest incidence of confirmed cases nationally, compared to other age groupings. That age group represents more than 20 percent of daily cases, but just 12 percent of the Canadian population, Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said Friday.

Health Canada recently approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine on children aged 5 to 11. HKPR was able to start vaccinating this age group on Monday, November 29th.

“We are seeing good uptake and good enthusiasm about availability of the vaccine across HKPR, which I think is quite exciting to see,” HKPR local medical officer of health Dr. Natalie Bocking said, during a virtual press conference, on Wednesday, November 24th.

She also talked about why there should be the same urgency to get this age group vaccinated as other eligible groups.

“I think there is the same urgency for a number of reasons. One is, if we look provincially at the distribution of cases across age groups, we actually see the highest rate per population of cases is among that age group, five to 11 year-olds or school aged children. When we look at the locations of outbreaks, where they’re primarily occurring, schools across the province have become the main location where outbreaks are identified,” Dr. Bocking explained. “We know there is COVID-19 infection within that age group. We know while the illness is not often severe, it can still cause severe disease. I think if we’re seeing a higher absolute number of cases among this age group, it means we’ll see a higher number of severe disease [cases].”

She stressed, children need to be protected from receiving potential long term effects of COVID-19.

Dr. Bocking also said she’s heard a mixed bag of reactions from parents about the potential of having their children vaccinated.

“There’s the full spectrum. I’d say the majority are excited about vaccinations, because it does signal another big step towards seeing the end of the tunnel of this pandemic, or at least the next chapter,” she explained. “There’s certainly parents, I talk to, [who] have questions, [who] want to see what the data is right now. They want to be reassured about the safety [of the vaccine], they want to be reassured this is necessary, that we think it is needed. I think, those parents, often after we have a discussion, or they’ve looked through the resources, are feeling reassured.”

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