‘He was adamant he didn’t want it’: the pro-vax parents with vaccine-hesitant kids

Anna worked for the NHS throughout the pandemic. Anna has witnessed the effects of Covid-19 firsthand. She worked remotely as she was part of a vulnerable group. However, her physiotherapist colleagues were also deployed to Covid wards during the peak of hospital admissions. She says that the long-Covid service is being set up at the trust she works for. Sam, her 16-year-old son, listens to her talk about the coronavirus and comes home. She says that Covid is a bunch of rubbish and it's all about control. This is all conspiracy theory. Anna says he is very stubborn. Anna says he is determined to not conform. He is a teenager. The other part of it is conspiracy theory. Anna says that social media has been his main source of information since the outbreak. He spends a lot of time on YouTube.
YouTube announced that it would remove misinformation videos about vaccines and ban anti-vax activists' accounts. YouTube had already banned false claims about Covid vaccines in the past month. Facebook did the exact same thing in February, but a quick search revealed that misinformation is still easily found (one post claimed that 80% of women who were vaccinated had miscarriages). Unvaccinated content is viewed hundreds of thousands of times on TikTok. NewsGuard, a news organisation that monitors misinformation and rates the credibility and credibility of news organizations, discovered last month that conspiracy theories involving Covid were being viewed by millions via TikTok. It also found that children younger than 13 years old were able access the app.

Even if they have not been exposed to anti-vaccine misinformation via social media, children may have encountered it at school gates. Protests have taken place outside of schools in the UK. Some protesters use loudhailers to shout at children and hand out leaflets or point them in direction of misinformation websites. Protesters showed images of dead children and claimed they were killed by the vaccine. This unsurprisingly upset children. The Association of School and College Leaders union discovered that nearly 80% of British schools were targeted by protestors. 13% reported seeing anti-vax demonstrators outside their school gates, while 18 schools claimed they had seen them.

The UK's chief medical officers recommended that children aged 12-15 years be given a single dose (or a combination) of the Covid vaccine. This would allow them to join the 16-17-year-olds who were offered the jab in August. About 21% of England's 12- to 15-year olds have received the vaccine. 56% of those in the older age bracket have gotten it. There are many factors that explain the low uptake. It was expected that it would be lower among children than older people, such as problems with the rollout. Scotland is a country where most children are vaccinated at drop-in centres rather than schools. The average uptake rate for the 12- to 15 year old age group is 53%.

There is also hesitancy. A survey of almost 28,000 children in England was published at the end September. It found that 51% of 13-year olds would be willing to receive the vaccine, while 78% of 17 year-olds did not. The figure for nine-year-olds is 36%. Although no vaccine has been approved in the UK for under-12s, US regulators last week approved Pfizers vaccines for children over five years.

Lily, 13 years old, was one of five children in her class that received her vaccine. Her close friends didn't get it. She says that we had discussions about it when we were trying make up our minds about what to do. I would hear their reasons why they didn't want it. They shared stories online about people who have seizures after getting it. There was also information about the vaccine making it infertile and making it very sick.

You get that feeling of "Maybe it's not a good idea". She asks, "Why am I the only one who believes it's a good idea?" I made, like, 10 different decisions. The night before, however, I had decided that I was not going to be able to do it. It was only after I did some research that I changed my mind.

Social media was abuzz about the vaccine making it infertile. Illustration by Kiki Ljung/The Guardian

Lily had talked to her parents about getting the vaccine. Although she claims they didn't pressure her in any way, they did mention some reasons why it would make sense to get it. My friends were the most likely to have reasons why I didn't get the vaccine. That was the reason I changed my mind and decided to get it. My parents argued that I should get the vaccine because of my grandparents and other like-minded people.

Russell Viner, a paediatrician, professor of adolescent and child health at UCL Institute of Child Health and one of the authors of the study of English students, said that teenagers don't have to be anxious. He says there is a place to pause and consider whether it is appropriate to think before you rush to make a decision. The research suggests that a lot of the hesitancy stems from a lack information. Many young people ask: Does it really matter? What benefits will I get? Teenagers should have a similar level of thinking. Thats the transparent, we-need-to-be-honest-about-the-science side of things.

However, as a nation, we want all our children to get vaccinated. The government is doing the right thing, but not making it mandatory and being open about the risks and benefits.

He believes that it is the right thing to vaccinate teenaged children. It's not an easy task and Britain did not rush to do it. This is a more balanced position.

Clare felt the same way as her 13-year old son Jamie. While most of her family was vaccinated, Clare wasn't due to underlying conditions. Jamie is certain that he will not be vaccinated and Clare supports this decision. She says that the JCVI report, which did not recommend vaccines for healthy children was what influenced her decision. Initially, the Joint Committee on Vaccination & Immunisation stated that there was insufficient medical evidence to recommend vaccinations for healthy children aged 12-15 years. After stating that there were insufficient medical grounds to vaccinate healthy children between the ages of 12 and 15, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation made a quick turnaround to say: Children below 16 years old will be vaccinated.

Clare says that we had already begun the conversation with our son. He was clear that he did not want to receive the vaccine. Jamie was worried about the (very low) risk of developing heart inflammation. This was especially true because there were 162 cases per thousand in boys after receiving two doses of vaccines, while it was 13 in girls. He was scared. He was afraid. He wanted more information, he wanted to know more about the vaccine's effects. However, that doesn't mean we can't change our minds.

He has strict restrictions on his smartphone and he is home-educated to prepare for a position at a specialist school. She is certain he has not been affected by social media. Clare says that we have discussed what anti-vax means. It shouldn't surprise me that there are many anti-vaxxers in the home education community. But they are not our tribe. We wouldn't belong to that group politically.

Viner is worried about anti-vax online messages and is outraged at school protests. It is irresponsible for young people to leave schools without their parents. They are being given information they may not need, and that's being pushed at the them. This is unacceptable behavior by anyone.

He points out that social media has been used to promote an anti-vax agenda, and not just Covid vaccines. What we've seen is a very strategic use by those against vaccination of social media, and I believe that young people are a part of that. You could argue that young people are more vulnerable because they are high users of social media. Because they are high users of social media, it is possible to argue that young people are more savvy than they realize about what they read. This is worrying, but we need to be assured that young people are able to recognize when unsupported facts have been promoted. However, this is not always the case.

Anna believes that her son was exposed to this online. She says that incorrect information is a major concern. Teenagers can be very impressionable, even though he would argue otherwise. Yes. Yes. He says that the research is bogus. However, she knows that the risk of him contracting a Covid infection is low but it is still a concern. If he did get it, I would be very worried in the event that he became seriously ill.

Viner says that we should think about how to reach young people with information. Trusted advisers such as chief medical officers are a good way to reach them, but they also appreciate the support of their peers. Young people have access to some very powerful voices from the younger generation, which is why they can respond to them. However, they also respond to their peers. Research showed that teens who were anti-vaxxers were more likely to be hesitant than those who didn't know. The message that young people received was to convince us, I believe. Please give us the information.

Anna and Sam are generally good friends, she said. However, Sam can be louder and more assertive when she questions him about his conspiracy theories. I've told him: He has had all his vaccinations. We also talked about polio, MMR, and all the vaccines that he had to stay healthy. It's about preventing other people from getting sick. I will continue to work hard, but I choose my moments. Sam, for now, is refusing to accept his invitation. His mother says that she is optimistic that Sam will accept it.

The names of children and parents have been changed