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New online course aims to combat vaccine hesitancy in parents

Kids COVID-19 vaccines
Posted at 12:04 PM, Jan 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-28 14:31:18-05

Vaccine rates remain alarmingly low in children.

As of last week, only about 28% of children ages 5 through 11 have gotten 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Less than 20% are fully vaccinated. That represents just over 8 million of the approximately 28 million children in this age group in the U.S.

The rate that vaccines were administered to children peaked before Thanksgiving, which is why parents are the target of a new vaccine ambassador program.

"You know, going to the neighborhood pool this summer with my kids, so many people came up to me and asked me questions," said Johns Hopkins behavioral scientist Dr. Rupali Limaye. "They'd be like, 'Oh, so if you know this person and this person, because your child played soccer with this person, can I ask you a question about COVID?' And I was like, 'Sure,' and so that's when I realized that I think that there is this natural way that parents just talked to other parents about what's going on."

Limaye is a mother of two and studies vaccine hesitancy and behaviors.

She's the instructor of an online training program for talking to parents about COVID-19 vaccines. The idea is to give accurate information and confidence to speak to anyone hesitant or misinformed.

It comes at a time when more children are getting sicker from COVID-19.

"I think the message for so long was, 'Great news, COVID-19 is mild in children,' and that's not really the case with this current variant," Limaye said.

A parent advisory group helped design the course. It includes short slides, animated videos and additional resources on topics.

Limaye addressed one of the biggest concerns she's heard.

"They say, 'Well, the vaccine was developed in so and so time.' So we try to go through the process and explain that coronavirus vaccines actually have been in development for more than 20 years," she said. "We were able to leverage different technologies to be able to bring a market of vaccine to the market very efficiently because we are in the middle of a pandemic."

Parents can find the free course on Coursera here.