Manitoba children could book vaccines as early as May 21

WINNIPEG — Children as young as 12 years old will soon be able to get the Pfizer vaccine.

It’s welcome news to Bruce Strang who has two teenage sons—one of whom has Down Syndrome.

“Given the vastly increased risk to Sean’s health from COVID, we’ll get the vaccine the first day we’re able to,” said Strang, who has already received his first dose.

On Wednesday, Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine for children ages 12 to 15, becoming the first country in the world to do so.

“It’s the same vaccine, it’s the same dose, and it’s the same dosing regimen as is already authorized for adults,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, Health Canada’s Chief Medical Adviser.

The clinical trial involved more than 2,260 U.S. children aged 12 to 15. There were zero cases of COVID-19 reported in the vaccinated group and 18 cases reported among the placebo group.

Among this age cohort, the vaccine proved to be 100 per cent effective compared to 95 per cent efficacy in those 16 and older.

In Manitoba, the province has been preparing for this announcement.

“We know that we can move the majority of them through one of our existing channels that we’ve built,” said Johanu Botha, co-lead of Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force.

“We’ve built the system to be ready for this.”

Of the 40,085 COVID-19 cases in Manitoba, there have been nearly 4,000 cases among those aged zero to nine and more than 5,000 in those between 10 and 19.

The Vaccine Implementation Task Force said it is waiting for recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) before releasing a rollout plan for youth.

“We don’t have the exact details to share today, but we do intend to include eligibility for young Manitobans, along with adults, as we move forward,” said Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the task force.

Children could be eligible to book appointments as early as May 21, which is when vaccine eligibility is expected to open to all adults in Manitoba.

Pfizer started vaccine clinical trials for the five to 11 age group last week, and is expected to begin trials for the two to five-year-old cohort next week. Moderna also has clinical trials underway for children.

The Canadian Paediatric Society said the inclusion of the younger generation is a positive step towards normalcy.

“Our children and youth have really been affected by this pandemic even though they’re not the ones in hospital and getting really sick,” said Dr. Laura Sauve, a paediatric infectious disease specialist based in Vancouver.

While Strang is happy his two boys will soon be eligible, he said not enough has been done for those living with disabilities since the vaccine rollout began, which is something he’s been fighting for.

“They’ve effectively done nothing to try to accommodate for that incredibly increased risk of hospitalization, commitment to intensive care or death,” said Strang. 

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