Vaccine bookings open for young children in Ontario on Tuesday

·4 min read

TORONTO — Ontario parents of children aged five to 11 will be able to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments for their kids starting Tuesday, with the first shots expected to be administered Thursday.

Health Minister Christine Elliott said the province is set to receive a little over 400,000 vaccine doses from the federal government on Monday, followed by another shipment of a little over 600,000 vaccine doses.

In total, the province is expecting to receive about 1,076,000 doses of the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine from the federal government, which was approved by Health Canada last week.

"We're going to be shipping them immediately to public health units and to primary care and then to pharmacies and we should be able to starting getting shots into little arms by about Thursday this week, so it's very good news," Health Minister Christine Elliott said on Monday.

Elliott highlighted that a third of the new COVID-19 cases in the province are in school-aged children, which "speaks to the need to get children vaccinated."

Bookings open at 8 a.m. on Tuesday through a variety of channels.

Those include the provincial COVID-19 vaccination portal and contact centre, directly through public health units using their own booking systems, participating pharmacies and select primary care providers.

Solicitor General Sylvia Jones had initially said children who are set to turn five years old by the end of 2022 could book their vaccine appointment as early as January 2022 but it was later unclear if that would be the case.

A spokeswoman for the health minister said only kids turning five this year are currently able to book their vaccine as "we do not currently have safety and efficacy data for four year olds." Alexandra Hilkene said additional details would be provided before next year.

Jones also noted that children who turn 12 years old eight weeks after their first dose can book an appointment to get an adult COVID-19 vaccine for their second shot.

The province said parents or substitute decision makers of children will usually have to provide consent on behalf of their child at the time of an appointment or fill out a paper consent form for their child. Consent forms will be provided online and in paper at clinics.

Elliott acknowledged that some parents may be hesitant to get their children vaccinated and want more information about vaccines for younger children.

She said that if parents want to speak with someone about vaccinating children, they can call the provincial vaccine contact centre at 1-833-943-3900, make an appointment to speak someone at SickKids Hospital, or contact their child's pediatrician or family doctor.

"I think it's natural that parents would have questions, so we want to provide them with the resources that they need in order to make a decision for their child," said Elliott.

A number of locations offering the vaccine for children will be customized to ensure a child-friendly environment through sensory-friendly clinic options such as reduced noise and reduced bright lights, cubicles or family pods so parents can be with their child when they receive the vaccine, as well as superhero themes employed by some public health units.

In addition, all public health units will offer select vaccination clinics at or near schools. Clinics will be offered primarily after school hours and on weekends to support convenient options for children and families.

The provincial government said there will be sufficient supply to provide a first dose to every eligible child in Ontario.

Individuals who use the COVID-19 vaccination portal can book their child’s second dose appointment after they have received their first dose, at an interval of eight weeks.

Vaccine certificates with QR codes will be available for children aged five to 11 on the province's COVID-19 vaccination portal after they have been vaccinated.

However, children in the age group are currently not required to show proof of vaccination in Ontario.

Ontario reported 627 new cases of COVID-19 Monday, and one more death. The seven-day rolling average is 656.

Almost 89 per cent of eligible Ontarians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 86 per cent have received two doses.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2021.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Noushin Ziafati, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. An earlier version incorrectly said appointments are expected to begin as early as Wednesday.

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