Many eager parents sign up, but some expect progress on vaccinating kids to be slower
With provinces and territories now rolling out plans to vaccinate children aged five to 11 against COVID-19, many parents eagerly signed their kids up to be among the first in line.
Nathan Maharaj and his wife were up bright and early Tuesday registering their nine-year-old son for his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine in Toronto. Maharaj is excited Edmund can feel safer returning to karate classes, for instance, and will feel more comfortable planning visits to Ripley’s Aquarium, the Ontario Science Centre or the movies.
“It’s a threshold we needed to cross to do things that we were comfortable doing before and as things are opening up again,” Maharaj told CBC News.
For the kids, puppies, princesses and superheroes have been dispatched to Quebec’s vaccination centres to help the province’s youngest citizens get vaccinated. Balloons, posters and wall stickers such as of Super Mario characters now decorate some of the centres, with one Quebec City site sporting a jungle theme.
As well, in contrast to open concept, assembly-line settings for adults who’ve been vaccinated, families get to stay put at Montreal’s sites in private areas as children receive their shots.
Not everyone is pouncing on the opportunity, an unsurprising development given recent polling that indicated upwards of 30 per cent seem opposed to vaccinating their children against the coronavirus, with others amenable but choosing to wait.
Historian Catherine Carstairs, who has researched health and medicine, says there are likely several factors at play, including skepticism of the medical profession, the rise of “natural health” products and non-traditional medicine, a growing feminist health movement and a shift in parenting styles that puts “less reliance on outside expertise and more of a sense of ‘I know my child better than anyone.’ “
“For COVID, I think the situation is a bit different … because of the fact that children are less at risk of COVID, their direct benefit of vaccination is less clear than for measles or other childhood vaccinations,” adds Ève Dubé, a researcher at the Quebec National Institute of Public Health.
Canada is just the second G7 country along with the United States to start vaccinating kids under 12. The European Union’s medicines watchdog is set on Thursday to evaluate the use of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, the product Canada is using for five- to 11-year-olds
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization released guidance that could be viewed as looking askance at the pediatric mobilization in North America and elsewhere such as India, China and some countries in South America.
“As children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, unless they are in a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions and health workers,” the WHO said.
The WHO says that its data indicates children under five account for two per cent of global cases and 0.1 per cent of all COVID-19 deaths, with those five to 14 comprising seven per cent of cases and also 0.1 per cent of deaths.
The United Nations health body also again stressed that the pace of global vaccinations is wildly uneven and should be of the greatest focus.
“As many parts of the world face extreme vaccine shortages, countries with high coverage in at-risk populations should prioritize global sharing of COVID-19 vaccines before vaccinating children, adolescents,” the agency said.
From The National
Basic Saskatchewan data dovetails with several findings on men and women and COVID-19
Saskatchewan has provided more data toward illustrating how the coronavirus has affected the province, data that confirms that more male residents are dying from COVID-19 than female residents.
As of Nov. 6, 873 people with COVID-19 are known to have died in Saskatchewan. According to the data, women accounted for 365 of those deaths, with 508 deaths suffered by men.
The split for deaths among male and female patients contrasts heavily with the number of cases and hospitalizations. The split for cases sits at about 50-50 for male and female. In hospitalizations, the split is 48 per cent female, 52 per cent male.
Having the data is important, said Nazeem Muhajarine, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan. But Muhajarine said that to understand the outcomes of COVID-19, researchers must look at a variety of other factors, such as ethnic background, employment type and status and overall health.
On that last part, Muhajarine said a phrase often used by researchers can help us understand the split: “Women get sicker and men die quicker.”
In general, men are more likely to have more adverse pre-existing conditions, while women are far more likely to seek medical treatment. Broadly speaking, women tend to boast a stronger immune response in the face of many viruses than for men.
Harvard researchers examining data found that several states had comparable mortality rates between men and women, while others had a mortality rate among men nearly double that of women.
“That suggests there’s probably other context — social factors, occupational exposures — influencing why the rates are varying between men and women, and that it’s not only related only to biological differences,” researchers said.
Quebec cast aside seniors in long-term care, ombudsman says
Despite expressing concern about the safety of seniors in long-term care in January 2020 ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic’s first wave in Quebec, health officials there did not take any actions to safeguard them until mid-March, the provincial ombudsman has found.
Most of the 3,890 deaths in Quebec during the first wave of the pandemic were among long-term care [CHSLD] residents, while staff watched helplessly, fled the overwhelming conditions or were themselves sick with the virus. In her final report released Tuesday afternoon, Marie Rinfret said long-term care workers “bore the brunt of public authorities’ inaction,” while representing 25 per cent of COVID-19 cases at the time, with 11 deaths.
The political fallout from the report continued on Wednesday.
The first outbreaks in Quebec long-term care homes appeared around March 23, but it wasn’t until mid-April that the government acknowledged the extent of the crisis and sent in reinforcements.
For example, in mid-March 2020, seniors in hospital care were transferred to long-term care homes without being tested for COVID-19 and without regard for the fact that they would push facilities beyond their capacity.
“The strategy was based on freeing up spaces in hospitals. They truly believed in good faith that that’s where the crisis would be,” Rinfret said.
But in doing so, officials failed to evaluate the risks and potential impacts moving resources to hospitals would have.
Quebec Premier François Legault acknowledged in reaction to the report that his government was too focused on preparing hospitals.
“We were very focused on hospitals and not enough on CHSLDs, that’s definitely a lesson,” Legault said.
Rinfret said she is asking Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé to provide her with ongoing progress updates, starting this spring, until all 27 recommendations in her report are implemented.
Rinfret’s investigation is separate from the Quebec coroner’s inquiry into the pandemic death toll at seniors’ residences and the impact of the pandemic on the sector as a whole — although both share the goal of uncovering what went wrong and identifying what needs to change.
World roundup: COVID-19 developments in Germany, South America, South Korea
Germany is poised to pass 100,000 deaths from COVID-19 this week in its official government tracking, a sombre milestone western Europe’s most populous country had hoped to avoid.
Vaccination rates have stalled at 68 per cent of the population, far short of the 75 per cent or higher that the government had aimed for, with lower uptake in some regions of the former East Germany.
Some German politicians are suggesting it’s time to consider a vaccine mandate, either for specific professions or for the population as a whole, a step neighbouring Austria recently took.
Angela Merkel’s apparent successor as chancellor, Olaf Scholz of the centre-left Social Democrats, has refused to be drawn on whether he would back compulsory COVID-19 shots.
Germany’s disease control agency reported a record 66,884 newly confirmed cases on Wednesday and 335 deaths. The total death toll from COVID-19 stood at 99,768 since the start of the pandemic, the Robert Koch Institute said. German weekly Die Zeit, which conducts its own count based on local health authority figures, said the 100,000 threshold had already been passed.
Nursing home deaths have been the bane and shame for a number of countries in the pandemic, but in South Korea, fundamentalist religious groups have triggered superspreading events. A little-known sect is now at the centre of a COVID-19 outbreak there, as the country reported a new daily record of 4,116 cases.
In a tiny rural church in a town of 427 residents in Cheonan city, south of Seoul, at least 241 people linked to the religious community had tested positive for coronavirus, a city official told Reuters on Wednesday.
Many of the congregation were in their 60s and above and were unvaccinated. The church opened in the early 1990s and has encouraged communal living while its pastor performs a ritual act of placing hands on the eyes of parishioners to rid them of secular desire, according to Jung youn-seok, head of a South Korean cult information resources think-tank.
Shincheonji was a church at the centre of an explosion of cases in 2020, with at least 5,227 people linked to its 310,000 followers infected after attending a service in Daegu.
The national case rise has seen about 71 per cent of intensive care beds filled up across the country for coronavirus-related reasons and 83.7 per cent in capital Seoul and neighbouring areas alone, Son Young-rae, a senior Health Ministry official, told a briefing.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) held its weekly briefing on Wednesday, reporting that nearly every country in South America except Brazil, Suriname and Venezuela is reporting increasing COVID-19 infections, although experts in the past have questioned the official numbers from Venezuela’s autocratic government.
The biggest jumps were in Ecuador and Paraguay, PAHO said. Bolivia is having a localized upsurge, with a 400 per cent increase in cases in the Santa Cruz department after recent strikes and protests prevented people from accessing COVID-19 vaccination and testing sites.
While 51 per cent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, there are 19 countries where vaccination coverage is below 40 per cent of the population.
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