Could parental inaction to vaccinate children harm them? – analysis

When it comes to parents making a decision about whether to vaccinate their children against the coronavirus, it’s about taking responsibility for what goes right or wrong whether they do it or not, according to Dr. Talya Miron-Shatz.

Miron-Shatz is an expert in medical decision-making and the author of “Your Life Depends on It: What You Can Do to Make Better Health Decisions,” as well as a member of the business faculty at Ono Academic College.

The Health Department is set to decide whether to green light Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine for children ages 5 to 11 this week, after it was approved and began to be administered in the United States.

But so far, it is unclear how many Israeli parents will eventually vaccinate their children. One of the main reasons for parents’ indecision is a legitimate concern about causing harm to their children.

However, Miron-Shatz explained that there is actually little difference between parents who actively vaccinate their children and possibly expose them to possible side effects of the vaccine and choose to do nothing (not vaccinate them) and expose them to the virus, with which They can do it. Ultimately, they will become infected and could even develop a serious illness.

Miron-Shatz relates a study of a person who hypothetically inherits an investment portfolio from a separated uncle. When the investment manager calls and asks the person if they would like to reconsider where the money is invested, the person chooses to maintain the status quo, although they don’t know anything about the uncle’s investment capabilities.

That’s because, according to Miron-Shatz, the individual believes that if the investment changes and its value goes down, then he will be liable. However, if the person leaves the money where it is, even if the portfolio’s performance is not brilliant, the person would not feel responsible, because they were simply passive.

It’s a classic case in behavioral economics, but “irrational,” Miron-Shatz said. “The decision to maintain the status quo is also a decision.

“It is very human to think that we are more responsible for action than inaction, although in both cases we are making a decision: to do something or not to do something,” he said.

And this is why it could be difficult to convince parents to vaccinate their children aged 5 to 11, even if the Ministry of Health ultimately rules in favor of vaccines.

Parents will feel responsible if they vaccinate their children and something goes wrong, but they can more easily convince themselves that it is not their fault if their children contract the coronavirus or suffer any of its consequences.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t responsible, Miron-Shatz said.

“The well-being of your children is in your hands,” he said. “There are parents who say they don’t want to get vaccinated because they don’t know enough about the vaccine. That’s legitimate and it’s fair to ask what the risks and benefits are. But too many parents don’t know why we got this vaccine in the first place. “

Pfizer did not develop its coronavirus vaccine on a whim. Rather, the drug company and others sought a solution to a global pandemic that has so far claimed the lives of more than 5 million people and sickened about 250 million, including children.

Studies presented by local and international health experts have shown that the risk of developing some side effects such as myocarditis is higher from the virus than from vaccination.

A woman receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at a Clalit temporary healthcare facility in Jerusalem on September 30, 2021 (credit: YONATAN SINDEL / FLASH90).

Health officials and parents must decide how likely children are to be harmed by the vaccine. But pretending that the other side of the equation doesn’t exist, that there is no risk to children from COVID-19, is “irresponsible and not part of a good decision-making process,” Miron-Shatz said. “You can’t just consider the risk of something and not the benefits.”

He added that beyond the severe cases of the disease or post-COVID syndromes, there is also the situation that children have been living socially and emotionally as a result of the pandemic: no school, isolation, depression and more.

“To say that you are saving your children from the malignant side effects of vaccination is really turning a blind eye to the disease and the physical and mental toll it brings,” he said.

But it might be difficult to convince parents of this.

An initial survey by Meuhedet Health Services found that only about 50% of Israeli parents would be willing to get vaccinated.

And judging by the Ministry of Health figures, parents are less likely to vaccinate their younger children. As of November 6, only 57% of teens ages 12-15 had received at least one injection of the Pfizer vaccine, compared with 87% of teens ages 16-19.

During the live-streamed vaccination debate last week, the head of public health services, Professor Sharon Alroy-Preis, said that before vaccinations, the percentage of children verified aligned with their percentage among the population. But since then, children between the ages of 5 and 11 have gone from being 10% of daily cases to around 35%.

However, until your child becomes seriously ill, it’s hard to believe anything bad can happen.

Take the situation of Aden Jamal Fayumi, 16, from Jaljulya, who died last month from post-COVID syndrome. He was not vaccinated. In interviews, his father said that the family did not even know that he had been infected with the virus.

“It is wrong to think that we will act if something goes wrong and there is nothing to do before that,” said Miron-Shatz.

Although he admitted that sometimes it is difficult to grasp what is not tangible. She and her colleague are currently working on another set of investigations showing that government restrictions were a strong signal to citizens of the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, even more than the number of new cases or people who died.

“The numbers are sad, but what do they really mean?” she asked. “If the government thinks you shouldn’t leave home, I understand that the situation is bad.”

Last week, the Ministry of Health broadcast the COVID-19 Vaccination Advisory Board debate and offered the public to ask questions during the discussion. But only a little over 100 people asked to speak, and no more than a couple hundred logged in at any one time during the hour-long session.

The low numbers have prompted Health Ministry officials to question whether the efforts made to broadcast the debate live were worth it and whether they would do so again. But Miron-Shatz said it was definitely a good idea.

“I think these discussions are complicated,” he said. “Experts in ethics, medicine, psychology and biology: it gives people a headache.

“But people like that there was transparency, even if they didn’t see the debate,” he said. “It means that nobody is hiding anything.”

If vaccines are approved in Israel, it will be easier to convince parents to vaccinate their children, he said.

There are experts who are against vaccinating children, such as Professor Rivka Carmi, former director of Ben-Gurion University, who spoke in the live debate and said that despite the data shared by Pfizer and the Ministry of Health, in his opinion the risk of side effects of the vaccine outweighs the benefits.

“COVID is a mild illness for children in most cases,” Carmi said.

Miron-Shatz said Carmi is among the people who “legitimately oppose vaccination,” meaning the teacher is making an active decision based on how she interprets the data.

The coronavirus crisis in Israel is the best it has been in many months. On Saturday night, the Health Ministry reported fewer than 200 people in serious condition and only 514 new cases.

“The coronavirus presents us with a challenge: act even if it seems unnecessary, vaccinate children even when they are not sick,” Miron-Shatz said.

“Let’s overcome the human tendency to pretend that we are not responsible for avoiding action,” he added. “Because when something goes wrong, it may be too late.”

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