Manitoba parents and young people inundated provincial vaccine booking systems in the hours after eligibility expanded to those 12 and up on Friday.
Over 33,000 appointments were logged by 5:10 p.m., a provincial spokesperson said.
Previously, the highest number of appointments made in one day was on Wednesday, when eligibility first opened up for young adults age 18-23 and 26,000 appointments were made.
“This cohort appears to be booking quite rapidly,” Dr. Joss Reimer said during a Friday news conference, a few hours after the eligibility expansion was announced.
“We believe this will help us protect even more people, more families, more communities from the third wave.”
There are roughly 111,000 Manitobans age 12-17 who now qualify for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Pfizer is given out at immunization supersites and urban Indigenous clinics.
Appointments can be scheduled through the province’s online booking portal or by calling 1-844-626-8222.
Manitoba is one of the first provinces or territories to extend eligibility to those younger than 18, the province said, but Alberta opened vaccination to 12 and up days earlier.
The move comes on the heels of a big bump in vaccine deliveries to the province, with hundreds of thousands more doses anticipated to arrive in the coming weeks, primarily of Pfizer and Moderna.
It’s preferred that those 12 to 15 attend an immunization centre with a parent, guardian or caregiver. A parent can also sign a consent form ahead of time and they can go alone, Reimer said.
People 16 and 17 are allowed to sign their own consent form.
Some minors may go to an immunization site without a guardian or consent form. In those cases, they will be able to go through the informed consent form with a medical professional at the clinic, who will assess their ability to consent on their own and decide whether to permit them to be vaccinated, Reimer said.
The Pfizer vaccine has been tested and found to be safe for older children. There were no safety concerns from trials in minors, Reimer said.
“When we are immunized, we slow the spread of COVID-19. We protect ourselves and the people around us so that we can get back to the activities and the people we love.”
WATCH | Dr. Reimer assures youth, parents vaccines safe, effective for 12 and up:
Moderna has run trials and is also expected to apply for emergency use approval for people younger than 18 soon, Reimer said.
If future studies show the vaccine is safe and effective in children under 12, Manitoba would consider expanding eligibility again, Reimer said.
“It depends on what they discover when they do the trial,” she said, referring to Pfizer plans to provide the vaccine to those six months and up.
Manitobans 18 and up became eligible for first dose appointments on Wednesday. Booking for second dose appointments begins on a prioritized basis on May 22.
So far, about 49 per cent of Manitoba adults have received at least one dose, the provincial immunization tracker says.
The province is still deciding whether to lump in vaccination numbers of those 12-17 with overall tracking on the provincial immunization dashboard, or whether to offer a separate tracker for minors, Reimer said.
Mixing and matching
Reimer also addressed preliminary findings from a study in the U.K. out Wednesday on mixing and matching Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is an mRNA-based product, and AstraZeneca-Oxford, which uses a viral vector technology.
Mixing may come with a higher rate of mild or moderate side-effects, including fatigue, headache or a fever, the report suggests. That could also hint at something that might sound counterintuitive to most people.
“While it sounds like a bad thing, [it’s] probably good news, but not definitively,” Reimer said.
Echoing other experts on the topic, she said the higher rate of mild side-effects could signal the development of a better immune response. Followup monitoring of participants of the U.K. study will be necessary to draw more firm conclusions, Reimer said.
Manitoba and at least five other provinces this week announced plans to limit or end use of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The majority of Manitoba’s doses will now be reserved for second-dose appointments for those who have already received one shot of AstraZeneca, but the vaccine team hasn’t ruled out giving some a second dose of some other vaccine.
The decision to pause first doses was made primarily because of AstraZeneca supply issues but also in light of Ontario’s findings regarding rare blood clots associated with the vaccine, Reimer said.
The risk of clotting associated with AstraZeneca, known as vaccine-induced immune thrombotic thrombocytopenia (VITT), is around 1 in 100,000. There have been 28 confirmed cases in Canada, including four deaths. The condition is treatable.
Reimer said the benefits of AstraZeneca still outweigh the risk of COVID-19.
“You did the right thing,” she said Wednesday to those who got a dose of that vaccine.
“You provided yourself and your families with protection as early as you possibly could, so we thank you.”