Canada

Today’s coronavirus news: Parents more hesitant to vaccinate kids than themselves, researcher says; Cape Town scientists to create their own vaccine as the world leaves Africa behind

The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Sunday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

7:42 a.m.: Jennifer Hubert jumped at the opportunity to get her COVID-19 vaccine, but she’s not looking forward to having to make the decision about whether to vaccinate her three-year-old son Jackson.

She recognizes the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, but said she also understands her son is at a much lower risk for serious illness than older adults.

“To me it’s not a clear benefit,” she said.

While many parents were overjoyed at the news that Health Canada is considering approval of the first COVID-19 vaccine for kids age five to 11 in Canada, parents like Hubert are feeling more trepidatious, and public health officials said they are going to have a much more nuanced conversation with parents about vaccination than they did with adults.

While 82 per cent of eligible Canadians aged 12 and up are already fully vaccinated, a recent survey by Angus Reid shows only 51 per cent of parents plan to immediately vaccinate their kids when a pediatric dose becomes available.

Of parents with children in the five to 11 year age range, 23 per cent said they would never give their kids a COVID-19 vaccine, 18 per cent said they would wait, and nine per cent said they weren’t sure, according to the survey of 5,011 Canadians between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3, which cannot be assigned a margin of error because online surveys are not considered random samples.

“Most of the research that I’ve seen sort of indicates that parents are more hesitant to vaccinate their kids against COVID than themselves,” said Kate Allen, a post-doctoral fellow at the Center for Vaccine Preventable Diseases of the University of Toronto.

7:41 a.m.: British Columbia is set to lift capacity restrictions on gatherings across much of the province Monday, though some say not everyone will be ready to party like it’s early 2020 while still wearing a mask.

Residents in swaths of the province will be allowed to attend events like hockey games, concerts and weddings without any limits on numbers, but capacity will be capped at 50 per cent in areas where vaccination rates are low, including parts of the Fraser, Northern and Interior health regions.

Attendees at all organized events in B.C. will be required to wear face coverings and show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.

The move was eagerly anticipated by businesses, including those that require bookings well in advance for events like weddings.

But Harpal Sooch, owner of the Grand Taj Banquet Hall in Surrey, said not everyone is ready for pre-pandemic-type parties while they still need to wear masks, especially seniors waiting for booster shots and families with children under 12 who can’t yet be vaccinated.

“They’re not getting into it. But hopefully everything goes on so by next summer we’ll be fine,” he said. “That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Heidi Tworek, a professor who specializes in health communications at the University of British Columbia’s School of Public Policy and Global Affairs, said employers, businesses expecting more customers and even individuals inviting someone over for dinner should expect a range of reactions because the lack of regular contact with people after nearly two years will have impacted some people’s mental health.

“There’s sometimes a baseline assumption that every single person is eager to go back immediately to full capacity,” she said, adding that while most people will have to get used to gathering with others outside their usual circle of contacts, those with an anxiety disorder will have a more difficult time being around those they don’t know.

Sunday 7:37 a.m.: In a pair of Cape Town warehouses converted into a maze of airlocked sterile rooms, young scientists are assembling and calibrating the equipment needed to reverse engineer a coronavirus vaccine that has yet to reach South Africa and most of the world’s poorest people.

The energy in the gleaming labs matches the urgency of their mission to narrow vaccine disparities. By working to replicate Moderna’s COVID-19 shot, the scientists are effectively making an end run around an industry that has vastly prioritized rich countries over poor in both sales and manufacturing.

And they are doing it with unusual backing from the World Health Organization, which is co-ordinating a vaccine research, training and production hub in South Africa along with a related supply chain for critical raw materials. It’s a last resort effort to make doses for people going without, and the intellectual property implications are still murky.

“We are doing this for Africa at this moment, and that drives us,” said Emile Hendricks, a 22-year-old biotechnologist for Afrigen Biologics and Vaccines, the company trying to reproduce the Moderna jab. “We can no longer rely on these big superpowers to come in and save us.”

Read Saturday’s coronavirus news.




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