Worried about the vaccines’ side-effects and believing that Covid-19 infections are mild among young children, parents are now hesitant to have them vaccinated.
Dung and her husband, who live in Hanoi’s Ha Dong District, have two children aged five and eight. They have decided against getting them vaccinated against Covid-19 in a survey conducted by the kids’ school.
Dung said she and her husband are worried about the side effects of the vaccine because there have been cases of severe reactions after injections among those aged 12-17 that led to the deaths of five teenagers.
Answering a questionnaire on vaccination at her six-year-old son’s school, Phuong, a resident of Hanoi’s Thanh Xuan District, chose the undecided or “considering” option.
Phuong said her son has underlying health conditions and suffered from several food allergies. Therefore, she was worried that the vaccine could trigger serious reactions.
Other parents have also said from what they have learned, the vaccine in use is very new and still in the experimental stage, which means it is not safe enough.
Some also said that several sources they have found online said the vaccine has ingredients that could affect the children’s endocrine system.
Many parents also think that Covid-19 is much less severe in children and therefore, the vaccine is not worth the risk.
Another Hanoian named Minh, 45, said both of her children, aged six and one, have got Covid-19, but their symptoms were mild and she did not think it was necessary to get them vaccinated.
“It’s not just me. Children of several colleagues and friends of mine have also got infected and none of them were severe. In reality, data shows almost no Covid-19 fatalities among children aged 5-11.”
Survey results released Wednesday by the Ministry of Health show that out of 450,000 parents with children under 12, only 60.6 percent agreed with vaccinating their children.
While only 1.9 percent actively disagreed with the proposal, 29.1 percent said they were undecided, while 7.6 percent said they would agree if it was made mandatory.
The survey was conducted in all 63 localities by the ministry’s Health Strategy and Policy Institute. No other details of the survey have been made available.
Meanwhile, a VnExpress survey of 182,512 readers found that 67 percent of them disagreed and only 30 percent agreed with having kids vaccinated against Covid-19.
Under the ongoing vaccination campaign, just as with the 12-17 age group, children aged 5-11 would be vaccinated either at school or medical stations. Children with chronic or underlying conditions, including obesity, would be vaccinated at hospitals.
The health ministry has yet to announce a timeline or mention how many children aged 5-11 would be vaccinated. Previously, it had proposed purchasing 21.9 million Pfizer vaccine doses for vaccinating children aged 5-11.
Doctor Nguyen Dinh Tinh, a lecturer at the Hanoi University of Public Health, said he understood why parents were worried about the vaccine as he himself was a parent of children aged 5-11.
He acknowledged that children in this age group range do not normally suffer from serious Covid-19 complications.
Don’t be confused
Tinh said “parents should not be confused” because global studies have showed that the Covid-19 vaccine rarely causes serious problems for children.
“The healthcare system in Vietnam is not as advanced as of other countries and for now, vaccination is the solution to avoid Covid-19 and keep the system from getting overloaded. It is very necessary to immunize children with high risks, including those with obesity and having chronic diseases, to protect them from Covid-19 complications,” he said.
Pham Quang Thai, Head of the National Expanded Program on Immunization, National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Hanoi, advised parents to trust scientific information.
Experiments have shown that the vaccine is safe for children because they would receive a dose that is just one-third of the one used for those aged 12-17. The rate of common reactions such as fever, pain at the injection site and body fatigue among children is also lower than that in adults, Thai said.
So far, 42 countries and territories have carried out vaccination for children aged 5-11 and almost no serious or unusual side effects like myocarditis (an inflammation of the heart muscle) has been detected, he said.
The benefit of the vaccine is much greater than the risk it poses, he stressed, adding that vaccinating younger kids will reduce the threat of community infection spreading, and therefore, authorities will not have to impose measures like shutting down schools.
Medical expert Tran Si Tuan said the Ministry of Health should conduct scientific research and publish the results widely on the media so that people can see the impacts of the vaccine on children aged 5-11 instead of just collecting opinions with surveys.
The research should compare the rates of kids getting infected, turning severe and dying due to Covid-19 and compare them with the rates of those that have died because of vaccination, he suggested.
Tuan said the research should be carried out carefully because the vaccine has been made in an emergency situation to prevent an ongoing pandemic and until now there has been no official study proving that it will have zero negative impacts on human health in the long run, especially in children, whose bodies are yet to reach full growth.
Tuan proposed that for now, the vaccine should be made optional, and policy should be made in a way that children who are not vaccinated can still go to school and attend public activities.
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