Why I wanted my child to have Covid jab

Why I wanted my child to have Covid jab

Vaccinating children aged 5-11 could reduce Covid-19 transmission in the whole population by 15%. Posed by models

I’VE long lamented the lack of a children’s museum in Cork. For a city that is home to a prestigious university and prides itself on its scientific heritage, it surprises me that we don’t have a tourist attraction that caters for kids’ curiosity like Dublin’s Imaginosity and Explorium or Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth.

Since Dunnes Stores vacated its premises in North Main Street Shopping Centre, I’ve thought it would be the perfect city centre location for a kids’ centre. Plenty of parking for out-of-town visitors, links to public transport for locals, plus proximity to other tourist attractions like Shandon and family-friendly dining options.

An anchor tenant like Imaginosity would be a positive shot in the arm for the wider North Main Street community.

Instead, I found myself outside the shopping centre with a literal shot in the arm in mind. The former shop has not been transformed into the children’s museum of my dreams, but has been converted into a mass vaccination centre, against Covid-19.

However, watching parents and children coming and going, you might be forgiven for thinking families were visiting the latest toy shop in town. The mood was upbeat.

I was vigilant for signs of nerves for children going in and signs of distress for children emerging but everyone seemed happy.

Like the slick operations adults experienced at City Hall and Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the set-up in North Main Street was seamless and friendly. The colourful bunting and posters of familiar Disney and Pixar characters lightened the mood.

After my son articulated his nervousness, Nurse Jo kept up a steady stream of assurance, plámás and distraction and before he knew it his first dose was administered and he didn’t even flinch.

The obligatory lollipop whiled away the post-jab wait time and soon we were on our way home without anyone shedding a tear, even me.

I did hear wailing from one booth in the distance, but all tears had subsided by the time the family emerged in the waiting room.

In comparison to the rest of the population, the take up of vaccines for 5-11 years old has been slower than for other age cohorts. As of last week, about one in five kids eligible had received their first dose. This lower number is probably for a multitude of reasons.

Firstly, so many children have been infected with Covid in recent weeks that they have to wait four weeks before they are eligible to be vaccinated.

Listening to radio vox-pops, parents spoke about their caution and desire to wait and see about any future side effects, even though they themselves were fully vaccinated.

Some parents may think ‘what’s the point?’ if their child has already had a dose of Covid, got through it relatively unscathed and has developed natural immunity.

The HSE particularly recommends that children get vaccinated if they have a health condition that puts them at higher risk of severe illness from Covid-19 or live with someone who is at a higher risk. I’d imagine most parents with children in these categories were delighted to have the opportunity to protect their child and families.

So, while most adults didn’t need much encouragement to get vaccinated, it seems parents are taking more time to decide on vaccinating their 5-11 year olds.

This caution is understandable and requires deep research by parents and deeper conversations by healthcare professionals to address parents’ specific concerns and questions.

To help in my decision-making, I read the National Immunisation Advisory Committee’s Recommendation Report online which balanced disease incidence and outcomes among 5-11 year olds with the risks associated with vaccination.

It concluded that vaccines should be offered to that age group to protect them from severe disease and the consequences that can follow infection such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MISC), long Covid, and the psychosocial and developmental impacts from social isolation and missing school, friends and family.

The report was published at the start of December while we were in the Delta wave. It said that in the last two weeks of November “children aged 13-18 years, 70% of whom are fully vaccinated, accounted for 6% of all confirmed Covid-19 cases. In contrast, those aged 5-12 years who were not yet eligible for vaccination, accounted for 20% of cases - 12,304 infections.”

In the past month at least, 65,439 children under-12s were infected with Omicron.

While thankfully most children have a mild dose of symptoms with Covid-19, getting the disease runs the risk of developing long Covid or MIS-C.

The risk of long Covid is lower in children compared to adults, but for some a return to normal health can take months.

NIAC said: “As a large number of children are likely to be infected, even a low prevalence of persistent symptoms can have significant impact on child health.”

MIS-C is a rare but serious disorder related to Covid-19 infection in which different organs like the heart, lungs, skin and eyes become inflamed. A large international study on children estimated between 0.5%-3.1% of all diagnosed paediatric Covid-19 patients were affected with MIS-C.

I have always believed that vaccination is a team sport. We get vaccinated to protect ourselves but also to protect others. The more people take part in vaccination, the better everyone is protected.

Modelling data from the European Centre for Disease Control suggests that vaccinating children aged 5-11 years could reduce Covid-19 transmission in the whole population by up to 15% in a country with high adult (85%) and child (50-70%) vaccination rates.

Vaccinating our last largely unvaccinated population should reduce infection and therefore rare complications, sparing a child a hospital stay or long recovery.

Who knows what twists and turns lie ahead in our pandemic journey?

My wish is that kids get back to normal as soon as possible. Who knows, maybe even having fun packed into a new children’s museum in North Main Street Shopping Centre!

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