COVID-19: One-fifth of 5- to 11-year-olds in B.C. registered, waiting for Health Canada vaccine approval


In its recent endorsement of the COVID-19 vaccine for children, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control said that in clinical trials, vaccine side effects were mild, self-limiting, and similar to those seen in adults. The most common side-effect was a sore arm.

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About 70,000 children aged five to 11 have been registered in B.C. for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, expected to be authorized for use soon by Health Canada.

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When it’s given the go-ahead in Canada, the vaccine will be available to about 350,000 children in British Columbia, providing protection to the final age group left out of the vaccination campaign.

Health officials say when the vaccine is available in B.C., it will likely be administered through a mix of health authority community clinics, pharmacies and school clinics.

“We continue to communicate with school districts on the current rollout and will provide more information to the public, parents and schools when the vaccine is approved for use in this age group,” health ministry spokeswoman Jill Nessel said in a written statement.

The Pfizer vaccine has already been approved for use in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration and endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Vaccinations there began this week .

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In Canada, federal health authorities received the clinical trial data on Pfizer’s use in children slightly later than the U.S.

Once the vaccine trials are assessed and accepted by Health Canada, B.C. health officials say they understand there will be a requirement for the manufacturer to reformat the vaccine itself that will add time before it will be available to deliver to children. The children will get a lower dose than administered to those 12 years and older.

A recent survey by Angus Reid found half of parents in B.C. with children aged five to 11 were planning to get their kids vaccinated, while another 15 per cent indicated they would not. Another 11 per cent were not sure and 15 per cent said they would eventually give their children the vaccine but would wait a while first.

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In the next age group up, those 12 to 17 years old, who received vaccine approval last spring, the uptake has been strong.

B.C. Centre for Disease Control data shows nearly 80 per cent of teenagers were fully vaccinated as of Oct. 19, the latest date for which figures are available.

This week, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry acknowledged there are people who are concerned about giving the vaccine to younger children.

Henry is confident that Canada has a very strong process for assessing the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

But Henry said it’s also important for parents to understand the possible side effects and ensure the vaccination process is comfortable for children, especially younger children.

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“Those are all things that we’re doing a lot of work on, to make sure that we have the right environment and we have the people who can answer questions for parents, so they can make those choices for their children,” said Henry.

In its recent endorsement of the vaccine, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control said that in clinical trials, vaccine side effects for children were mild, self-limiting, and similar to those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side effect was a sore arm.

In B.C., the COVID-19 infection rate had spiked significantly in early October for the five to 11 age group, but has dropped since then. Hospitalization rates have also risen, although children normally do not get severely ill and deaths are extremely rare.

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In endorsing the Pfizer vaccine Nov. 2, the U.S. Centre for Disease Control said COVID-19 cases in children can result in hospitalizations, deaths, inflammatory syndromes and long-term complications, such as “long COVID,” in which symptoms can linger for months.

The CDC notes that the spread of the Delta variant, first detected in India and also the dominant strain in B.C., resulted in a surge of COVID-19 cases in children throughout the summer in the U.S.

Similar to what was seen in adult vaccine trials, vaccination was nearly 91 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 among children aged 5-11 years.

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twitter.com/gordon_hoekstra

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