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Ontario reports 65 new COVID-19 deaths, with fewer than expected vaccinations for childrenSEDI News

Ontario has reported 65 new deaths linked to Covid-19, while the number of children under five vaccinated against the virus is lower than many experts expected.

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Newly released data from Ontario’s health ministry on Thursday showed the number of people in hospital with the virus fell slightly to 1,141 from 1,167 this time last week.

The number of people in intensive care due to Covid-19 remained relatively stable at 129 compared to 130 last week. Of those in intensive care, 57 patients are on ventilators, up from 47 last week.

Test positivity rose slightly to 13.1 percent on Thursday, from 12.2 percent last Thursday.

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

Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Kieran Moore said the number was lower than he thought he would see up to this point.

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

“We know that we have a greater than five percent percentage of children with underlying medical conditions that could predispose them to a worse outcome associated with Covid and would absolutely encourage parents to communicate with your health care provider. Risks and benefits.”

Many people wrongly believe that COVID is over: Epidemiologist

Raiwat Devanandan, an epidemiologist and associate professor in the Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Ottawa, said there are a number of factors that feed into the potentially low uptake, but he still would have expected higher numbers.

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

Many people believe false narratives that the epidemic is over and that children do not get sick when they are infected with Covid-19, said Devanandan, who also pointed to misinformation about vaccine side effects.

The way messages about vaccine safety and efficacy are delivered to parents is important, Devanandan said.

“It should be approached as, ‘Parents, this is your decision and I want to give you all the transparent information so that you can make a good choice here,'” he said.

“It’s a delicate balancing act here that we have to do when we’re talking about this. You don’t want to force a foreign object into your child’s body, because we see the population is very sensitive to that kind of narrative. We’re going to put the world back into lockdown. Don’t want to come across as scared people trying to bring…. But at the same time, you just want to advocate for the overall health of the child.”

Toronto pulls vaccination ads

The City of Toronto this week pulled a series of videos about Covid-19 vaccinations for children because of a concern children can’t go out to play with friends if they’re not vaccinated.

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

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

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

“Nobody trusts epidemiologists anymore,” he said. “They don’t trust government doctors anymore. Nobody trusts virologists anymore. They just trust their child’s pediatrician, and those are the people who have to have that conversation.”

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

“When you visit your primary care provider, your pediatrician, you’re getting your standard immunizations at two months, four months, six months, 12, 15, 18 months — these are all opportunities for families to ask questions about COVID. Vaccination,” he said.

“We have to work to continue our (official) message. It will accelerate as we move indoors and into the fall as we understand the risk of transmission will increase.”

The risk of serious illness for young children is real: Therapist

Eastern Ontario Health Unit Medical Officer of Health Dr. Paul Romeliotis said he hoped vaccinations for young children would pick up during the fall, as he expected about 25 to 30 percent overall vaccinations.

He attributes the slow start during the summer, misinformation circulating about vaccines, and the general hesitancy of parents when it comes to children that age.

“I’m a pediatrician, I know that parents are always hesitant — especially for young babies and children — whether it’s vaccinations, or any medication that comes out,” he said.

“One of the messages we want to convey to the public is that although the vaccine is not as effective as we would like for person-to-person transmission, it is certainly very effective against serious disease and its complications.”

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

“(People think), ‘Oh Covid isn’t that bad. It’s just a mild cold in young children, I don’t really need to worry about it,'” she said.

“I think there’s a lot to deny that kids, especially young kids, can get it and get very seriously ill.”

Significant increase in infant hospitalizations

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

Children have a fairly good chance of catching COVID-19 when schools are back in session, and it’s not just the immediate and potential long-term effects on young children that parents should keep in mind, Banerjee said.

“(They) can spread it to other kids, spread it at home, spread it to grandparents,” she said.

“It’s something that can significantly affect someone’s life. And so I would do whatever you can to reduce the risk of transmission, which is really vaccination.”

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