It looked triumphant, but the 5 p.m. trio looked more like they were walking on eggshells on Tuesday as they kicked off the vaccination campaign for children ages 5 to 11.
At a press briefing, Prime Minister François Legault, Minister of Health, Christian Dubé, and Dr Horacio Arruda insisted that they especially did not want to put pressure on the children or their parents.
They have not even set a target to achieve, “because we want to respect the judgment of parents,” explained Christian Dubé.
“It’s a personal choice,” said François Legault.
“We do not want to put pressure so that parents make an informed choice”, added the Dr Rue.
The strategy is clear: do not frighten reluctant parents. Above all, do not make them feel guilty. Gently get them to make the only decision that needs to be made: to have their children vaccinated.
The stake is enormous. Succeeding in immunizing a good part of the 650,000 children aged 5 to 11 could “change the face of the pandemic in Quebec”, dropped the Prime Minister.
That would allow us, finally, to turn the page. That said without wanting to put pressure on anyone, of course.
Go find out why, but I thought of a road sign while following the trio’s press briefing.
Without doubt the strangest road sign in Quebec. We see a child slumped in the street, his clothes torn. He has just been hit by a car. We read: ATTENTION TO OUR CHILDREN. IT MAY BE… YOURS.
They were everywhere, in the neighborhood of my childhood. I wondered what that could possibly mean. Are they our children or yours? Are there things we should know? Paternity tests to pass?
And then, if we are quite sure that they are not ours, it’s okay, we don’t have to be careful?
In short, this panel with dubious syntax came back to me on Tuesday evening. Watch out for our children. COVID-19 may strike… yours.
And if it’s not yours, maybe it will be its neighbor. His classmate. His little sister. His best friend. Vaccinate your child to protect them all.
Do this even if you don’t feel directly involved. You are. Your child too.
After all, that is the principle of vaccination: not only to protect the individual, but to achieve collective immunity in order to curb disease in a population. This is what we did with polio, meningitis and chickenpox.
And now is the right thing to do, without hesitation, with COVID-19.
“It is a personal choice,” said the Prime Minister.
Maybe… but not only.
Many (too) people seem to have forgotten the immense benefits of mass immunization. They now believe that the vaccine is a purely individual choice, which only concerns their own health – or that of their child – a bit like eating vegetables or playing sports.
Only 60% of parents would be ready to have their children vaccinated. We have to find a way to convince the remaining 40%. The trio is right: we won’t get there by pushing them around or calling them idiots or conspirators.
The government hopes to attract children with giant butterflies, dragonflies and tropical plants. Very good.
But I find it hard to believe that setting up vaccination centers in lush jungles will be enough to convince the hesitant.
Because most of them are hesitant.
Not the ignorant or the selfish. Parents who want the best for their children. And who hesitate. They fear the side effects of a new vaccine. They think it’s not worth taking the risk, since COVID-19 is rarely severe in children.
True that complications are rare, but they do exist. For the rest, the hesitant are wrong.
To protect their children, they choose not to have them vaccinated without realizing that this choice is not without risk. Absolutely not.
On the contrary: the risk of doing nothing is much greater than the risk of rolling up your sleeve.
Even if it was just a personal choice, parents would have every advantage in rushing to the immunization clinic.
Even if they don’t do it for the community, they should do it, at the earliest, for the sake of their own children.
First, because the children are tired of the pandemic, outbreaks and lockdowns. Two-thirds of schools in Quebec currently have at least one infected child. And cases are on the rise. The vaccine can flatten the curve.
But above all, because COVID-19 is not just a cold. In the United States, she has killed more than 400 children under the age of 10. She sent tens of thousands to the hospital.
There, the vaccination campaign is already well underway. No child died of it. None experienced serious side effects.
Pfizer studies have shown 90.7% effectiveness in reducing coronavirus-related infections.
In other words, the vaccine is safe, effective and available everywhere. Parents have the power to protect their children from the small but real risk of serious illness. All the little ones will have to do is take a deep breath and count to five.
The choice, personal and collective, has never been clearer.