#childsafety | Should my child get the jab?

Some parents are torn about vaccinating their children against COVID-19, despite advice to do so from the health authorities.

Paediatricians say that the vaccine is safe and protects children from even greater risks, with the vast majority of side effects being minor.

But while many parents trust the system and are getting jabs for their children, others have decided to wait it out.

“I must say I am biding my time when it comes to vaccinating my children,” a mother of three children aged two, six and eight, said.

She stressed she had taken all the jabs and was not an anti-vaxxer. But “it’s one thing deciding for myself and another deciding for my kids, especially since they have a whole life ahead of them.

“I feel there is much less experience when it comes to children under the age of 11.

“I feel it’s weighing the risks of my kids being in the small minority of getting COVID badly against the risks of possible side effects of a relatively new vaccine,” she said.

Like many concerned parents who spoke to Times of Malta since children over five started being called in to take the vaccine last month, the woman said she would probably “cave” and give her children the COVID vaccine due to the practical implications.

The concern of many is: given that children are generally resistant to the virus, why risk injecting them with something “new”?

A doctor’s recommendation

Simon Attard Montalto, who heads the Department of Paediatrics at the University of Malta, has said that while it is true the COVID vaccines were fast-tracked – because a huge amount of resources were diverted into their development – there was no compromise in terms of standards and safety.

Attard Montalto has urged parents to vaccinate their children, saying the vaccine protects them and also increases population immunity, helping prevent the spread and mutation of the virus.

He said that while COVID, in the main, does not affect children as badly as the elderly, there have been some children quite sick with it.

And there was no guarantee that future mutations would not be more aggressive. 

So far in Malta, about five children have been hospitalised with serious post-COVID complications. All have recovered, he noted.

Lingering concerns

Despite this reassurance, and the fact that the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has approved the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children, concern lingers among many parents.

“I am going to vaccinate my child to protect the vulnerable in my family and to get on with life,” said the mother of a seven-year-old.

“But I’m not sure if it’s the right thing to be doing, injecting his young body when children are doing well on the whole. I understand that health authorities are looking at the bigger picture. But I zoom in on my child.”

Like others, she preferred not to be named to avoid having to deal with any backlash on such a sensitive topic.

Several shared her sentiment and others are planning to wait in the hope that doubts will be cleared up.

Another mother who contracted the virus said: “Now I will wait as I’m not sure if my child got it too and possibly has antibodies.

“I think it’s very much of a personal choice and I respect everyone’s decision, which is why I feel angry about restrictions being placed on children.”

Other parents, too, spoke about the feeling of “having no choice” due to the repercussions for the non-vaccinated: longer quarantine, travel restrictions and possibly being banned from events such as school concerts. 

“I guess I’ll have to give it to her eventually. But I am happy to prolong for a couple of weeks,” the parent of a five-year-old said.

Trust the science

But apart from the fearful, there are many who trust science.

One mother of three children, aged two, five and seven, said: “I support vaccinating the kids. I see it as the only way out of the pandemic, otherwise the virus will continue to mutate.”

Angele Spiteri Paris, who has three children, aged two, six and eight, agrees: “We need to try and find a way out. I trust that the scientists approving the vaccines would not put a large swathe of the population at risk. Yes, there are risks. But even taking paracetamol and driving a car carry risks.”

Sharon, who has a seven-year-old daughter, said: “I’m going to vaccinate her because I feel it’s the best way to protect her and others. I am, of course, concerned, but also trust all the bodies involved in approving the vaccine for children.

“I respect everyone’s opinion as we all do what we think is best for our children. I also think that if I risked getting this vaccine into my body, when my daughter is totally dependent upon me, then I trusted science.”

Some parents are questioning what will happen in a few months’ time when some children are vaccinated and others not.

One woman felt “angry” at the thought of children having to end up with online schooling because of a minority who were unvaccinated.

Another said that having all children vaccinated could finally mean they could remove masks in class.

Then there was the risk that unvaccinated children posed to vulnerable people.

“Since my children will be vaccinated, I don’t worry about them mixing with others not vaccinated. But I would avoid situations which would expose any other members of my family to unvaxxed kids,” Spiteri Paris said.

Will parents have to ask if a friend is vaccinated before inviting them over for a playdate or party?

“It’s difficult to keep kids away from friends. Also, it’s not always possible to know who has been vaccinated and who has not,” Sharon said.

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