Children aged 5-11 to begin receiving COVID-19 vaccines in B.C. next week

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A child receives a flu vaccine from the South Hill Family Health Centre in Vancouver on Oct. 16, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)
A child receives a flu vaccine from the South Hill Family Health Centre in Vancouver on Oct. 16, 2020. (Ben Nelms/CBC - image credit)

British Columbia is going to start vaccinating children aged five to 11 against COVID-19 next week, the province says.

Officials said Tuesday invitations to book appointments will start going out Monday to families with children who have been registered through the province's portal, with a number of same-day appointments available.

The children will be receiving Pfizer's pediatric vaccine, the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in Canada for children in that age group. Health Canada approved the vaccine on Friday, adding roughly 350,000 children to the list of those eligible for a shot in B.C.

"We believe we'll have capacity between now and Christmas to vaccinate a good number of these children," said Dr. Penny Ballem, the executive lead of B.C.'s immunization rollout team.

"This is a major step forward now in continuing on the journey of getting our communities back to as close to normal as we'll be following the pandemic."

Vaccinations for young children will happen at community clinics across the province, but not pharmacies. A parent or guardian must give verbal or written consent, the province said, and there will be a minimum of eight weeks between the first and second doses.

The five-to-11 age bracket is firm, officials added.

If a child is four years old, they will not be able to get vaccinated until the day of, or after, their fifth birthday. If an 11-year-old turns 12 between their first and second dose, their second shot will be an adult dose.

Families will be able to bring all of their kids at the same time, as long as they're all booked at the same clinic at some time on the same day.

For children with specific needs or a fear of needles, the province said it plans to create private spaces at clinics — including quiet areas where they can sit with their families before and after the shot.

The first doses of Pfizer's pediatric vaccine are expected to arrive in the Lower Mainland on Tuesday, to be sent out across the province by truck.

The pediatric doses — which are each one-third of the adult dose — will be stored in vials with orange caps and orange-bordered labels, so health-care workers can tell them apart from the adult vials with purple caps.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

In remote First Nations communities, the First Nations Health Authority (FHNA) and local health authority will bring pediatric vaccinations to the community at the same time they bring doses for adults. The province said Tuesday it is still working on scheduling those deliveries.

More than 90,000 children already registered

The province said roughly 91,000 children have already been registered for their vaccine and are on the list to be contacted by text or email to book an appointment for their shots.

Provincial Health Officer Henry said the vaccination of children is important to protect them from COVID-19, especially during a fourth wave continuing to affect children.

The province said the illness can can still result in serious outcomes for some children, including hospitalizations and long-term symptoms, even though they are at an overall lower risk for severe illness.

Health-care providers trained and experienced in administering childhood vaccines will be staffing the clinics across B.C., Henry added.

WATCH | First shipment of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for kids arrives in Canada:

Transmission in schools still low, province says

Also Tuesday, the province provided updated statistics around COVID-19 among children and in schools across the province.

B.C. has started to see a decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases in children and teenagers under 17. There was a significant peak in cases in children five to 11 in late September and October in particular, but that has started dropping.

Roughly 12 per cent of schools this school year have seen a cluster, which is two or more cases in a two-week period where the virus was likely spread within the school. Eighty-eight per cent of schools haven't seen any transmission, Henry said.

Henry said 12- to 17-year-olds who were still unvaccinated between July and November were 10 times more likely to be diagnosed with COVID-19, compared to their peers who had had one or both shots of a vaccine.

As of Monday, more than 90 per cent of people in B.C. aged 12 and over had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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