Health Canada has approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine as a booster dose for children aged five to 11.
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam said Friday that getting vaccines up-to-date ahead of the fall is a "top priority."
"This booster dose provides a great option to restore protection for this age group, especially for those who are at high risk for illness," she said.
The 10-microgram booster dose can be given at least six months after completing a primary series of a COVID-19 vaccine, Tam said.
Also on Friday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released recommendations saying that kids aged five to 11 with an underlying medical condition that places them at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 – including those who are immunocompromised and received three first doses – should receive a booster dose.
For all other kids aged five to 11, NACI recommends that a booster dose "may be offered" at least six months after completing the primary series of the COVID-19 vaccine.
NACI's recommendations say a longer interval between doses may result in a better response after any subsequent dose because it allows time for the immune response to mature in "breadth and strength."
The recommendations also say a bivalent vaccine will be available for use in adults in the coming months, but "it is unclear if/when a pediatric bivalent vaccine would become available as trials are still underway."
Vaccine uptake in the five to 11 age group is much lower than in all older demographics, with about 42 per cent of kids aged five to 11 vaccinated with two doses, according to federal data as of July 17.
The vaccine rate in every older demographic is higher than 83 per cent.
However, booster uptake among teenagers is also quite low, with fewer than one in five teens aged 12 to 17 receiving a booster eight months after NACI authorized them to get one.
Tam says nationally the latest wave of COVID-19 appears to be either at or past its peak, with cases and hospitalizations declining in most regions.