MONTREAL — Twenty-seven per cent of Quebec parents of children aged five to 11 are opposed to getting their child vaccinated against COVID-19, a recent survey by the province's public health institute has found.
According to the survey, conducted from Oct. 1 to Oct. 13, 44 per cent parents of children aged between five and 11 who responded said they completely agree with vaccinating their child against COVID-19, while 19 per cent were somewhat in agreement.
Another 10 per cent said they didn't know whether they would get their child vaccinated.
Ève Dubé, a medical anthropologist at the Institut national de santé publique du Québec who studies vaccine hesitancy, said it's normal that people don't have strong intentions to get their child vaccinated through a program that doesn't yet exist, but she was surprised at how many people — 22 per cent — said they were strongly opposed.
"The proportion is quite high," she said in an interview Thursday. "It's higher than what we observed prior to the launch of the 12- to 17-year-old vaccination campaign last spring. So that indicates that vaccine hesitancy may be higher in parents of younger children."
Dubé, one of the researchers who conducted the survey, said she believes the risk-benefit calculation is different for parents of young children, because children are less likely to develop severe cases of COVID-19.
"When we asked parents with low or no intention to vaccinate, the two main reasons are really: I don't believe vaccines are needed because my child is not at risk and vaccine safety concerns," Dubé said.
Support among parents for the vaccination of children aged 12 to 17 rose during the course of the vaccination campaign, and Dubé said she expects that to happen among parents of younger children. Premier François Legault announced this week that the government plans to lift the pandemic health emergency once the younger age group has been vaccinated, which he hopes will be early in 2022. Pfizer and BioNTech are awaiting Health Canada approval for their vaccine for children aged five to 11.
While Dubé said there's a relationship between a parent's positions on COVID-19 vaccines for their children and their own vaccination status, some of the respondents who have been vaccinated themselves are strongly opposed to vaccinating their child.
"That makes me think that there might be more vaccine hesitancy around this specific group and that it might be one group that could be harder to reach with this campaign," she said.
The question was asked as part of a larger survey of around 3,300 Quebec residents. It cannot be assigned a margin of error because it was conducted through an online panel which is not truly random.
Earlier in the day, the Quebec government said it has added more than 2,100 full-time nurses to the public system since offering bonuses nearly a month ago.
The latest figures released Thursday show 2,164 nurses have agreed to come back full-time to the public health network, including 83 retirees and 453 people recruited from the private sector. The bulk, 1,628 workers, are part-timers who agreed to switch to full-time hours.
Health Minister Christian Dubé said in a statement that 408 more nurses have been added since an update last week, and discussions are ongoing with another 2,800 potential candidates.
The province was short about 4,000 nurses in the public system on Sept. 23 when it announced its program offering one-time bonuses of up to $18,000 to help fill critical labour shortages in the network.
Meanwhile, Quebec reported 428 new COVID-19 cases and three more deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus on Thursday. There are 4,773 active cases in the province.
Health authorities reported 274 people in hospital, a drop of 13 from the previous day. The number of patients requiring intensive care remained unchanged at 72.
The province's public health institute reported 90.3 per cent of Quebecers aged 12 and older have received at least one dose of vaccine, while 87.3 per cent are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. The province administered 12,928 vaccine doses on Wednesday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Jacob Serebrin and Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press