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Why is vaccine uptake in kids 5-11 so low? Infectious disease expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch offers his take

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A lower likelihood of severe illness from COVID-19 and a desire for more data could be reasons why some parents have chosen not to get their children fully vaccinated, infectious disease expert Dr. Isaac Bogoch says.

Speaking to CTV's Your Morning on Monday, Bogoch said one reason why parents may not be vaccinating their children with two doses could be that kids tend to not get as sick from COVID-19 as adults do.

"Of course, we know kids can still get sick and we've seen a rise in pediatric hospitalizations," he said. "But compared to the older cohorts in general with COVID-19, they just don't get as ill."

Bogoch said children with underlying medical conditions are disproportionately hospitalized for COVID-19 and should get the vaccine because of that.

"And I think stepping back, as well, I think parents just want to do what's best for their children," he said.

"Some parents jumped in with two feet when vaccines became available for this age cohort. Others still have lingering questions or concerns and I think it's important that they take their time to get those questions and concerns addressed."

While this may mean waiting for more data or speaking to a health-care provider, Bogoch said, with time he believes more children between the ages of 5 and 11 will receive their first two doses, as well as a booster.

As of Aug. 14, a little more than 42 per cent of children aged 5-11 had received two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, far below the uptake seen in older age groups.

On Friday, Canada's chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, announced that Health Canada had authorized the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as a booster for children 5-11.

The dosage for children 5-11 is smaller at 10 micrograms for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, compared to 30 micrograms for those 12 and older.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization says children with underlying medical conditions or who are immunocompromised, which puts them at greater risk of severe infection from COVID-19, should get a booster at least six months after receiving their second shot.

Tam said on Friday that other children in the 5-11 age group may also receive a booster six months after getting their second shot.

While the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 is "generally rare" for this age group, she said it "is preventable if you get vaccinated."

"So I think giving people the choice and providing parents and kids with information about the effectiveness of a vaccine and the importance of the booster can help them make this choice," she said.

Bogoch said he expects both COVID-19 and flu cases to rise this fall as people spend more time indoors, including students returning to class and adults being in the office.

But he warned that the winter could be made worse by the ongoing challenges in Canada's health-care system.

"We've heard time and time again about how our health-care system is really stretched and there is significant challenges with staffing in the health-care system," he said.

"So when you factor in so many different things — the regular ailments and the slips and falls that happen in the winter, a COVID season, flu season, other respiratory viruses that we get around the winter, plus understaffing in health care — I think sadly we're going to have a bit of a challenging winter ahead of us."

Watch the full interview with Dr. Isaac Bogoch at the top of the article. With files from CTV News Parliamentary Bureau Writer and Producer Spencer Van Dyk.

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