The pandemic has put parents in many problematic positions: Should the kids see their grandparents? Can we have playdates? When and where should we mask? And it has presented us with more Google fodder than when our babies were newborns. What does just a runny nose mean? What if they only have a fever? If you get sick, when can the kids go back to school? With all of that uncertainty, it’s no wonder that making decisions feels so difficult.
At the top of the list of concerns for many, especially parents of kids under five, is the question of when—or whether—to vaccinate their children against COVID-19. That’s not surprising; confusing messages and misinformation from social media, other parents and in some cases, even health professionals can make it hard to know what to do.
A new, free service aims to change that. MIICOVAC offers reliable, up-to-date, science-based vaccine information to help parents make the right choice for their families.
“Parents are often afraid of being judged and do not dare to ask questions about their child’s immunization,” says Dr. Arnaud Gagneur, a neonatologist and vaccine hesitancy researcher at the Université de Sherbrooke. “This service provides access to an individual immunization counsellor who will answer all their questions in a non-judgmental and caring manner.”
How does MIICOVAC work?
If you have questions about the COVID vaccine, whether it’s regarding your children or yourself, and you don’t know who or how to ask or aren’t comfortable asking your healthcare professionals, visit Canvax.ca/miicovac. Simply hit “Click here to get started.”
There is a brief survey to complete regarding your questions and concerns. Once that’s done, you can book a video appointment with an immunization counsellor.
What is the video appointment like?
Trained counsellors use a technique called motivational interviewing, a communication style that helps guide people towards making decisions by addressing their concerns, uncertainties and anxieties. Counsellors share science-backed information about COVID vaccines, without pushing vaccination or shaming you for the choices you’ve made or plan to make. Any information you share will remain confidential.
“The role of the counsellors is to respond to parents’ concerns and provide them with the relevant information they need to help them make their own decisions regarding their children’s immunization,” says Gagneur.
What are common concerns?
Many parents are concerned by how quickly the vaccine was developed, says Gagneur. In this case, the counsellors at MIICOVAC would explain that immunity to coronaviruses has been studied before, during SARS-CoV in 2003 and MERS-CoV in 2012, and that researchers have been working on mRNA vaccines for more than 20 years. With COVID vaccines, the approval process was accelerated, but they still went through the same steps before being approved that any vaccine would and were held to the same quality and safety standards.
What else should I know?
MIICOVAC is part of a pilot project to see if this type of service meets the population’s needs and can increase the number of people who choose to vaccinate themselves or their kids. Because of this, you’ll have to fill out and sign an electronic consent form before you begin.
MIICOVAC is a partnership between Centre de recherche du CHUS (Université de Sherbrooke), the Canadian Vaccination Evidence Resource and Exchange Centre (CANVax), the research group CoVaRR-Net, and the Canadian Public Health Association. The pilot project is funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada.