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Canadian mom says vaccine hesitancy among parents 'feels like we're going backwards'

Three parents and a pediatrician weigh in on on vaccine hesitancy and what that means for children's health.

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A child gets a vaccine. (Image via Getty)
According to a recent Angus Reid poll, one in six parents say they are "really against" vaccines for their kids. This number is four times higher than the parents who held that view in 2019. (Image via Getty)

More parents are opposed to vaccinating their children compared to five years ago, according to a recent poll from Angus Reid.

Nina Bruchet, a mother of two in Chestermere, Alta., said she feels "anger, frustration, concern and disappointment," when it comes to the rise of the anti-vaccine sentiment, especially when it comes to the safety of her children and their health.

"I'm not sure if people are doing their research and understand the risks involved for their children," Bruchet said, pointing to the recent rise of measles as an example of something there's a known vaccine for but people are hesitant to seek out. "It's like we're going backwards."

Conversations around vaccines have been a point of contention during the pandemic — and even before. For Canadians like Bruchet, routine vaccinations are essential to the health of her kids and everyone in the community.

I'm not sure if people are doing their research and understand the risks involved for their children.Nina Bruchet, parent

"It impacts everybody. Some people are more vulnerable than others," she said.

Yahoo Canada recently spoke to some parents and a pediatrician on vaccine hesitancy and what that might mean for children's health.


Vaccine hesitancy on the rise

Lovely little girl with medical face mask sleeping soundly in mother’s arms while they are riding on bus.
According to a recent Angus Reid poll, 67 per cent of Canadian parents said they would vaccinate their kids without hesitation. In 2019, that number was 88 per cent. (Image via Getty)

According to the Angus Reid poll, one in six parents said they are "really against" getting their children vaccinated. This number is four times higher than the parents who held that view in 2019.

The poll also found that fewer parents support mandatory school vaccinations for their kids. In contrast, seven in 10 Canadians said they are worried about rising anti-vaccine sentiment, saying it can lead to unnecessary illness.

Dr. Ronik Kanani, the chief of pediatrics at North York General Hospital in Toronto, said many kids are coming into the hospital with influenza without having had their flu shot. Some of these kids might also have strep infections. "People may not be aware of what influenza can do and how sick their child can get with it," Kanani said.

He said some parents might only need a gentle reminder their kids are behind on their routine vaccinations, which can be understandable since the pandemic disrupted hospitals and regular check-ups.


Family doctor shortage 'adds another barrier'

Becky Thomlinson, a 33-year-old mother of two living in Kingston, Ont., said she understands when parents might fall behind on a routine vaccination or how it might slip through a crack.

"With the lack of family doctors, which can be hard to find, it just adds another barrier," she said.

On March 5, the Ontario College of Family Physicians (OCFP) said in a release that more than two million people did not have a family doctor in the province. It's a number projected to be as high as 4.4 million by 2026, as physicians retire or scale back their services within the next five years.

"Family medicine is under enormous strain right now due to system-wide issues," OCFP president Dr. Mekalai Kumanan said in the release.

Dr. Ronik Kanani, the chief of pediatrics at North York General in Toronto, said he's noticed more kids coming in with influenza who haven't had their flu shot. (Image via Getty)
Dr. Ronik Kanani, the chief of pediatrics at North York General in Toronto, said he's noticed more kids coming in with influenza who haven't had their flu shot. (Image via Getty)

Thomlinson said this family doctor shortage impacts her kids. Her children are caught up on everything except the COVID-19 vaccination. "As working parents, it's difficult to book a time and go," she said. "I know that these sound like excuses, but it's why they haven't been vaccinated."

With the lack of family doctors, which can be hard to find, it just adds another barrier.Becky Thomlinson, parent

She added she doesn't possess strong feelings for other parents who might not vaccinate their kids, but is hoping parents would take responsibility for their actions if an illness were to spread.


Vaccine hesitancy was 'always there'

Kanani said vaccine hesitancy was present even before the pandemic.

"I'm sure the pandemic made people more hesitant as vaccines were mandated for certain things," he said. "I think that maybe made people more hesitant — but I think it was always there."

Terri Beatty, a mother of three in Milton, Ont., said she understands parents who have reservations. Beatty's kids have their routine and COVID-19 vaccinations, but she said if she could go back in time, she wouldn't have done the COVID-19 vaccination for her kids.

[Vaccines] can make a huge difference in reducing risks.Dr. Ronik Kanani, chief of pediatrics at North York General Hospital

She said for some, there is a lack of trust for big pharmaceutical companies that profit from vaccines, especially when made mandatory.

Kanani said while this lack of trust does exist, it's important to recognize the number of illnesses and infections that have been eliminated or eradicated because of routine vaccinations. He said he has seen a significant decrease in meningitis, blood infections and pneumonia from the pneumococcal vaccine. From the rotavirus vaccine, he has seen a decrease in the number of kids coming in with diarrhea and vomiting from rotavirus, a stomach flu.

"[Vaccines] have changed the types of infections and illnesses we see in kids," Kanani said. "They can make a huge difference in reducing risks."

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