The Toronto district public school board is wrestling with a generation gap in vaccination rates
The number of parents unsure about whether their children should be vaccinated against the common cold or COVID-19 is greater than reported earlier, according to the results of a survey commissioned by the Toronto district public school board.
A third of the children from kindergarten through Grade 8 have refused to receive the vaccine against coronavirus, a common cause of severe colds in children, as well as a new strain called COVID-19, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada’s data.
Research from the Hennepin Institute for Public Health in Minneapolis found that only about 1% of children who have confirmed COVID-19, plus cold symptoms, are rejecting the vaccine, according to a survey published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
When a child refuses the vaccine, the medical provider must report it to the national authority that produces and monitors vaccinations.
This doesn’t mean that a child is getting vaccinated if they are with a doctor, or that they are getting vaccinated when the parents are home, Dr Lesley Berry, the executive director of public health in the Greater Toronto Area, told the Guardian.
Health officials worry that rising immunization rates are being undermined by parents who are opting out of immunizations, and now they are trying to gather more information from parents who are unsure about the vaccine.
A quarterly survey taken by the school board asked parents about their conscientious objection to vaccination, the prevalence of allergies, needle safety concerns and whether their children have been vaccinated.
The results showed a range of responses from a wide spectrum of parents and showed that nearly two-thirds of parents are “certain or somewhat likely” to get their children vaccinated. That’s up by four percentage points compared to two years ago.
Some parents, 40%, are unsure, up six percentage points from two years ago. The only category of parents in which more people are unsure than among those who were certain or somewhat likely to get their children vaccinated is those whose children are at “higher risk” because of the nature of their allergies.
A September report from the board released this week also found that fewer parents were involved in the decision making process, down four percentage points from two years ago.
Vaccination rates in the Greater Toronto Area have “started to change dramatically over the last few years,” Berry said.
“There’s definitely been a shift in parents feeling that immunization is an important part of their community. More families are picking up the phone and going to their doctors for vaccines.”
This includes children who are vaccine-injured and those with measles and other communicable diseases.
“It’s now a more widespread focus for us,” Berry said.
“The disease can spread even in the community now, so we’re seeing lots of families who are extremely concerned and ensuring that their child is fully immunized. It’s a great awakening.”
A recent report from the Greater Toronto Area did not include responses from people in areas outside of Toronto, but researchers from Cornell University in New York said that immunization rates still lagged for children who were young and had been injured, especially if the child was outside of the Toronto area.
In 2016, the WHO called for Canada to double its immunization coverage as the best way to keep infectious diseases such as measles, whooping cough and hepatitis under control.
Canada has been struggling with a surge in vaccine-preventable diseases this year, with the federal department of health reporting this week that there were an “alarming” number of whooping cough cases between January and March.
Canadian researchers and British officials have called for vaccinations on products called whomps, because some suggest that they are making Canadians sicker and susceptible to more dangerous and dangerous diseases.
On the streets of Toronto, Berry said she hears from parents who are being “enraged” by politicians and politicians saying that children should not get vaccinated or that there is a link between vaccinations and autism.
“I tell them to be very vigilant for exposures that could put their child at risk, because we all can be susceptible and we all need to be vaccinated.”