Canada has now approved COVID-19 vaccines for kids as young as five years old - and while those vaccines aren’t available in Flin Flon yet, they will be later this week.
Those specific doses are likely to arrive in Manitoba later this week. Doses of child-specific vaccines will first be made available in Flin Flon Nov. 28 at a clinic at the Flin Flon Community Hall, running from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Masks and consent forms are required.
No appointments will be made for the child doses - instead, the shots will be held as walk-in clinics. The first round of child-specific appointments are only available at provincial vaccination supersites, not at pop-up, public health or pharmacy based clinics like those in Flin Flon.
The first COVID-19 vaccine for kids under age 12 was approved by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) Nov. 19 - a form of the popular Pfizer-BioNTech brand of shots. The child-sized doses are 10 micrograms, as opposed to the typical 30 microgram measurement used for other age groups. Doses must be at least eight weeks apart for best results, according to NACI.
“Approval of a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine in Canada has been long anticipated. Today, the new lower dose pediatric formulation of the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech is being authorised by Health Canada as Canada's first COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 5 to 11 years,” reads the official recommendation from the PHAC issued Nov. 19.
Moderna has also applied to the PHAC earlier this fall to receive approval for a juvenile form of its own COVID-19 vaccine - approval for that shot has not yet been granted, though it may be by the end of this year.
In Manitoba, demand for vaccines for newly eligible kids overloaded the province’s vaccine booking system - as of 11 a.m. Nov. 22, about 13,000 appointments had already been booked, enough for about 10 per cent of Manitoba’s kids between ages five-to-11 to receive one dose.
In Saskatchewan, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) has begun accepting appointments for child doses, with shots expected to reach the far north areas (including places like Creighton and Denare Beach) as soon as Friday. Appointments can be made by calling 1-833-SASKVAX - more information can be found by contacting the local public health office.
Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force, said in a Nov. 22 media conference that the province was preparing to provide doses for newly eligible kids.
“Health Canada has completed a thorough scientific review of the evidence and has determined that the vaccine’s benefits outweigh the risks in this age group. If you are a parent or a caregiver of a child in the five-to-11 age group, this news will come as a great relief to most of you, because parents and everyone who cares for children want for them, for the kids, to be safe and protected from harm,” said Reimer.
“We do expect that according to the results of our research here in Manitoba, a large majority of parents will be getting their children immunized. I want to assure you that we will have ample supply of the vaccine to meet this demand - in fact, we're told that the shipment of the vaccine will be arriving in Winnipeg tomorrow.”
As far as what northern rollout of child-size vaccines outside of main centres and supersites may look like, the Northern Health Region (NHR) has shared tentative plans for making the shots available (in time) for smaller sites and clinics.
“NHR Public Health would plan to hold clinics targeted to that age cohort in our communities, which will include weekend clinics,” reads a comment from an NHR spokesperson about the then-pending approval last month.
In northern Manitoba, where the population is on average younger than the rest of the province, more COVID-19 cases have occurred within children and young adults than any other age group. Over 40 per cent of all the NHR’s total COVID-19 cases, according to the provincial COVID-19 dashboard, have been in people age 19 or younger - more than 20 per cent of all the region’s cases have been in children nine years old or younger.
Children typically do not suffer the most extreme side effects from COVID-19, Reimer said, but can spread the disease along further. Recent community outbreaks in Manitoba, including the ongoing outbreak in Norway House, have been tied to cases first found and transmitted in schools.
“The evidence so far has shown that most children experience mild COVID-19 disease, but they can still pass it along to others who may be more vulnerable and those who catch it from a child can then spread it broadly as well. In some cases, even healthy children have become severely ill with COVID-19 and required hospitalization,” said Reimer.