62: Vaccine Hesitant Parents

A panel of ASTHO members met with journalists for a virtual news conference Thursday to discuss the new pediatric COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges involved with convincing hesitant parents to vaccinate their kids against the virus. Dr. Nirav Shah,...


A panel of ASTHO members met with journalists for a virtual news conference Thursday to discuss the new pediatric COVID-19 vaccine and the challenges involved with convincing hesitant parents to vaccinate their kids against the virus. Dr. Nirav Shah, ASTHO President and Director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention; Dr. Anne Zink, ASTHO President-elect and Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer; Dr. Jose Romero, Arkansas’ Secretary of Health; and Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt, Director of the District of Columbia Department of Health each offered comments during the call.

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Transcript

ROBERT JOHNSON:

This is Public Health Review Morning Edition for Friday, November 5th, 2021. I'm Robert Johnson.

Here's today's news from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

 

  1. NIRAV SHAH:

We are facing an epidemic of misinformation around pediatric COVID-19 vaccines that will complicate the rollout of these vaccines across the country.

JOHNSON:

That's ASTHO president, Dr. Nirav Shah, addressing reporters in a virtual news conference yesterday, talking about the task ahead following this week's approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11.

With the Pfizer formula becoming more available by the day, the challenge for public health now is how to boost vaccine confidence among parents, even as polls continue to say two-thirds are not certain they'll vaccinate their kids.

Dr. Shah, also director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, says that's a big problem.

SHAH:

In effect, the misinformation around pediatric COVID-19 vaccines is like the Delta variant itself: it travels much more quickly; it's much more damaging; and, most fundamentally, it threatens to undermine the progress that we've made to date.

JOHNSON:

Dr. Anne Zink is ASTHO's president-elect and Alaska's chief medical officer. She says she understands why parents are worried.

  1. ANNE ZINK:

I remember the very first time that my kids got vaccinated and it was honestly terrifying. I was in medical school, I had been studying science and medicine—but the thought of having my little one, who was perfect in every way, getting a shot was awful in many ways.

And I understand and relate to the anxiety that can come with having to make a decision about your child, particularly in all of the politics and policy and—as Dr. Shah just talked about—misinformation and, honestly, disinformation in this space.

JOHNSON:

Also on the call with reporters was Dr. José Romero. He's a pediatrician, secretary of health in Arkansas, and a former chairman of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices—the same group that recommended the vaccine this week.

  1. JOSÉ ROMERO:

These vaccines have been well-studied—studied in older age groups—and are now available for children.

I, as a grandparent, am strongly recommending this for my grandchildren. When I sat on the ACIP, one of the things that I always mentioned was that when my time came to get the vaccine, I would get it and I would advocate for its use among my family members

JOHNSON:

In the District of Columbia, there's excitement for the pediatric vaccine, but also concern.

Dr. LaQuandra Nesbitt leads the D.C. Department of Health.

  1. LAQUANDRA NESBITT:

And we need people to want to listen to facts about vaccine and vaccine safety and efficacy, and not be swayed by myths when they are making decisions about how to get vaccinated and when to get vaccinated. So, that's going to be critically important for us.

JOHNSON:

Overall, vaccination rates in D.C. are high; but among Black and Latinx adults ages 20 to 44, they're lower when compared to rates for white adults the same age.

Dr. Nesbitt says vaccination rates for Black children ages 12 to 15 are running behind as well. It's these numbers that leave her worried about uptake among younger kids in the city.

NESBITT:

Unvaccinated parents may be less likely to have their children vaccinated; and this, of course, causes us some concern.

 

JOHNSON:

You can watch the full briefing and hear the reporters' questions by following the link to the video—it's in the show notes.

 

That'll do it for today's report.

 

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Join us again Monday morning for more ASTHO news and information.

I'm Robert Johnson. You're listening to Public Health Review Morning Edition. Have a good weekend.