Children aged 5 to 11 can now get Pfizer's bivalent COVID-19 booster in N.B.

Only one booster dose is currently recommended for children aged five to 11, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said. (Kate Bueckert/CBC - image credit)
Only one booster dose is currently recommended for children aged five to 11, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said. (Kate Bueckert/CBC - image credit)

New Brunswick children aged five to 11 can now receive the Pfizer-BioNTech bivalent COVID-19 vaccine booster, the province announced Thursday.

It's the only bivalent authorized for this age group in Canada, approved by Health Canada in early December.

The Department of Health encourages parents to book a vaccination appointment for their children to help slow the spread of the virus and reduce severe effects for those most at risk.

"Public Health is reiterating the need for New Brunswickers to stay up to date with their COVID-19 vaccines, especially as the winter months bring increased cases of respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19," Dr. Arifur Rahman, acting deputy chief medical officer of health, said in a statement.

"We continue to encourage all New Brunswickers to get their primary vaccines and booster doses when they are eligible."

Booster doses are available to everyone five years and older, as long as five months have passed since their last dose or COVID-19 infection, whichever is more recent. This includes those who received one of the original, monovalent boosters.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization strongly recommends children with an underlying medical condition that puts them at high risk of severe illness because of COVID, including those who are immunocompromised, be offered the bivalent booster six months after their first two COVID-19 vaccines or previous COVID infection.

The committee's recommendation for all other children in this age group is discretionary. They "may be" offered the bivalent booster six months after their other doses or infection, the advisory body said.

For now, only one booster shot is recommended for children aged five to 11, but the advisory committee said an extra booster could be considered at the health-care provider's discretion for children who are at higher risk.

2 youths admitted to hospital

Two people under 20 were among the 54 people admitted to hospital because of COVID-19 in the past two weeks, according to Wednesday's COVIDWatch report.

This is now the youngest age category listed under the recently reformatted report. Children under 10 and youth 10 to 19 used to have their own categories.

Four people are in intensive care, and another 18 people have died from the virus, raising the pandemic death toll to 740.

A total of 90.8 per cent of eligible New Brunswickers have received one COVID-19 vaccine, 85.7 per cent have received two doses, 54.5 per cent have received their first booster, while 28.8 per cent have received their second booster, as of Wednesday, the Department of Health said.

Vaccination clinics continue to be offered across the province by Public Health and at participating pharmacies. More information on clinic locations is available online or by calling 1-833-437-1424.

Pfizer's bivalent has been available to New Brunswickers aged 12 and older since October.

It targets the original coronavirus as well as the strains now most common in New Brunswick — the highly transmissible Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5.

The child-sized dose is about a third of the dose that is approved for people over the age of 12.