The long wait is over for Manitobans eager to have their babies and toddlers vaccinated against COVID-19.
When the county expanded eligibility to all children from six months to four years, and opened appointment booking Friday, some parents heaved sighs of relief.
“Parents of children under the age of five have been banging their heads against the wall, for many of them, since the start of the pandemic, trying to protect them and not expose them too much, and I think it’s really, is very difficult. So today is a really great day to give our little kids a first chance,” said Julie Lajoie, a virologist at the University of Manitoba and mother of two daughters. (One isn’t even two years old, the other turned five last week.)
Lajoie said she had been waiting for her daughters to qualify for the Moderna childhood vaccine, but she ended up getting their first doses during a recent vacation in Quebec.
Families should not fear adverse reactions to the vaccine in their little ones, she said. Studies have shown that the risk of side effects is even lower than the already low risk in older age groups.
One of her daughters didn’t respond at all to the vaccine, while the other had a fever all day — a sign that the immune system is kicking in, Lajoie said.
It is too early to say what vaccine use will be like among this youngest group of Manitobans.
The uptake in children ages five to 11 is 42 percent across Canada, much lower than the uptake in adults. That may be due to the mistaken belief that COVID-19 infections in children are always mild, Lajoie said, stressing that children can still contract serious infections and are at risk for long-term COVID.
Better masking practices in general and improved ventilation and air purification in schools and nurseries, in particular, would help reduce transmission in the fall, Lajoie said.
“In terms of prevention, that could take us so much further than (where) we are now. It’s hard to see why it’s not on the table yet, but today is a good day for parents who want to get their kids vaccinated — and we’ll be celebrating that part.”
A Winnipeg mother of two boys under the age of five set her alarm on Friday morning in preparation for booking her long-awaited vaccine appointment. An hour and a half before the 9:00 am alarm went off, her three-year-old son tested positive for COVID.
“The disappointment – the exact day we could have made that call is when the positive test came,” said the woman who asked not to be identified publicly because she had previously received hateful comments online for speaking out for vaccination and masking. .
The pediatric vaccine has been a “beacon of hope” to help protect her children from the novel coronavirus, something the family has worked hard for over the past 29 months, she said.
“We just want to get through this pandemic knowing that we have done everything we can for our children.”
Their primary care physician and Health Links advised them to wait two months after infection before making a vaccine appointment, she said. By then, his now four-month-old brother will also qualify.
“We’ve waited so long, we can be careful a little longer – and we will be.”