Some parents of kids under 12 worried about Alberta reopening plan

Edmonton parents of young kids say they are concerned with the province’s plan to lift almost all restrictions this summer while their children are unable to receive the protection of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

The province’s three-step plan mainly focuses on vaccination rates, with almost all restrictions lifted when 70 per cent of eligible Albertans receive at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. But there are about 664,000 Albertans under the age of 12 — nearly 15 per cent of the overall population — who currently aren’t eligible to get immunized. 

With Stage 1 of Alberta’s reopening plan starting Tuesday, some parents are staying cautious and waiting for a time when kids under 12 might be able to get vaccinated. 

“I am concerned, especially going into September for the school year,” Ed Moge said. He has two kids under 12. 

“The vaccination rates have to increase. We need people to take that to be able to protect the young kids.”

Moge said his family won’t be going to any large indoor events unless stringent safety measures are in place, and that they’ll wear a mask when they go out. 

“I still don’t feel it’s a safe environment right now,” he said. 

Edmonton mom Amber Othen said her family plans to spend a lot of their time outside and this summer. She has four children who can’t yet be vaccinated. 

“Even though my husband and I, we have our first dose, we’re waiting for our second dose eagerly, it is a concern,” she said. “We still will be more conservative about the choices that we make, the places we decide to go, what activities we plan to do and what that looks like just because we want to ensure that they’re healthy as well.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said in a news conference Thursday that if there is high vaccine uptake in people 16 and older, COVID-19 levels in younger children will also fall. 

“We’ve seen throughout the pandemic that children do not tend to be high transmitters of COVID-19, particularly young kids,” she said Thursday. 

“It seems unlikely that if we achieve the high level of protection that we’re targeting, that younger children would remain as an ongoing reservoir for COVID-19.”

‘It’s of some concern but not a major concern’

Dr. Joan Robinson, pediatric infectious diseases physician at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, said parents should be cautious about COVID, but that even parents of immunocompromised children shouldn’t be overly concerned. 

“Immunocompromised children are probably at lower risk for severe acute COVID-19 than what parents might think,” she said. 

Robinson said that at the Stollery Children’s Hospital, there have been a few children with cancer who were admitted to hospital who happened to have COVID-19, but that the virus wasn’t the primary reason for their admission to hospital .She said she knows few children with transplants who were not admitted hospital when they got COVID-19. 

“It’s of some concern but not a major concern,” she said. 

“The most important thing that they can do is try and make sure that as many people as possible that their child is exposed to are immunized.”

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