First COVID-19 vaccines for children arrive in Canada

·3 min read
The first delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children in Canada aged five to 11 landed in Hamilton on Sunday. (Nick Iwanyshyn/Reuters - image credit)
The first delivery of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children in Canada aged five to 11 landed in Hamilton on Sunday. (Nick Iwanyshyn/Reuters - image credit)

Canada received its first doses of COVID-19 vaccines for children, with a shipment landing in Hamilton on Sunday evening.

The shots, developed by Pfizer-BioNTech, are meant for kids aged five to 11 and represent a major milestone in this country's vaccination effort.

The federal government and the pharmaceutical giant have agreed on an accelerated delivery of more than 2.9 million doses, scheduled to arrive in Canada by the end of the week.

The delivery comes just a few days after Health Canada authorized the vaccine for use. Public Services and Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi announced the date for the first delivery on Friday, shortly after Health Canada approved the vaccine.

In an interview on Rosemary Barton Live ahead of the delivery on Sunday, Pfizer Canada's vaccine lead Fabien Paquette said clinical trials had shown that the vaccine was almost 91 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 for the targeted age group. Deliveries would be made swiftly across the country this week, he said.

WATCH | Pfizer Canada vaccine lead discusses arrival of doses for kids:

"Over 4,600 children have been part of this trial, with really nice success and of course great results," he told CBC chief political correspondent Rosemary Barton.

The pediatric vaccine produced by Pfizer uses a dosage a third of the size of those given to people 12 and older. There have been some other changes to this shot, including one that will allow it to stay at normal refrigeration temperatures for longer.

As of Nov. 19, 79 per cent of eligible Canadians are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to CBC's vaccination tracker which includes those aged five and up.

Concerns about vaccine hesitancy

While many health-care professionals welcome the opportunity to increase vaccination rates across the population, there is concern that even parents who are themselves vaccinated may be more hesitant to give it to their children.

Paquette said it was "normal" to have those kinds of concerns, but he urged parents to trust the science and review process executed by Health Canada.

"I would say for those parents, speak with health-care providers, take the time to speak with the nurse or immunizer that will provide the vaccine, talk to your pharmacist, your physician, go to credible sources where you can get additional information and the reassurance that this is a good option for your children," he said.

WATCH | Parent Stefanie Ventura talks about the push to vaccinate children:

Stefanie Ventura, the parent of a seven-year-old, told Barton she originally was concerned about the vaccine because her son, Daniel, has epilepsy, but after speaking with experts, she was convinced that the benefits outweighed any risks.

"We spoke with his neurologist, his pediatrician and several other doctors and staff, and they were able to give us all the information," she said.

Ventura said the vaccine represented a "chance for our kids to get back a little bit of normalcy."

She said her family had taken many precautions to avoid getting sick during the pandemic, as illness had triggered seizures in the past.

"We're hoping that a lot of parents get their kids vaccinated and we can really see the light at the end of the road," she said.

Provinces readying rollout plans

Now that the first doses have arrived in Canada, they'll be distributed. After that, it is the responsibility of provinces to manage vaccine administration.

The Ontario government has said parents will be able to book appointments for their children early this week, while Manitoba officials said rollout would begin within a week of delivery.

In Nova Scotia, health officials said earlier this month that administration could begin in early December.

Quebec is aiming to give one dose to each child by Christmas.

You can watch full episodes of Rosemary Barton Live on CBC Gem, the CBC's streaming service.

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