Children between the ages of five and 11 in Nova Scotia will start getting vaccinated for COVID-19 on Dec. 2.
Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, said the first shipments of the vaccine for kids will be delivered to the province this week.
The online system for booking vaccines for kids is not yet open, but will open "very soon," Premier Tim Houston said during a COVID-19 briefing on Wednesday morning.
Strang said staff are still making adjustments to the online booking system to accommodate the new age group, and that once the delivery date and time of the vaccines are finalized, the system will open and the public will be notified.
Bookings will be opened to the entire new age group all at once — a population of about 68,000.
Nova Scotia: Daily new COVID-19 cases
Health Canada approved Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine for kids five to 11 on Friday. The province has previously announced that vaccines for children will be delivered through pharmacies. The IWK Health Centre will also administer the shots.
Asked why Nova Scotia is lagging behind other provinces that have already opened bookings and are vaccinating kids, Strang said Nova Scotia has asked for its bulk shipment to be broken down into smaller shipments so they can be sent directly to pharmacies.
"Over time, that efficiency of shipping directly to pharmacies will stand us in good stead," he said.
Strang said Nova Scotia has the capacity to administer first doses to all kids aged five to 11 who want them before Christmas.
'Make the COVID-19 vaccine a priority'
Children aged five to 11 will be considered fully vaccinated 14 days after their second dose. Strang said a minimum of eight weeks between doses is recommended.
If a child turns 12 between the first and second doses, the second dose will be the adult dose, Strang said.
He said children under 12 should not receive other vaccinations at the same time as the COVID-19 shot, but rather should leave 14 days between the COVID-19 vaccine and a different shot.
"If you do have to make a choice, make the COVID-19 vaccine a priority," Strang said.
Those 12 and older can receive a COVID-19 dose at the same time as another vaccine.
Strang said data on vaccines for newborns to four-year-olds is still being collected through clinical trials and there is no timeline yet for vaccination of that age group.
Pharmacies are preparing for the start of child vaccinations by looking at staffing and setting up their spaces to accommodate kids, said Diane Harpell, the chair of the board of the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia.
She told the CBC's Information Morning that rather than the five- to seven-minute intervals allotted for adult vaccinations, pharmacists may plan for seven- to 10-minute intervals for kids to allow extra time to make them comfortable.
Pharmacists may also have, or encourage parents to have, distractions available, such as a special toy, a device to show a video, games in the office or a TV in the location where the vaccine is being administered.
Daily case numbers
Nova Scotia reported 20 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, bringing the active caseload to 172.
Twelve of the new cases are in the central zone, six are in the northern zone and two are in the eastern zone.
Eighteen people are in hospital, including six in intensive care.
On Tuesday, four schools received notification of an exposure. The province maintains a list of school exposures here.
Strang said in the Halifax Regional Municipality, cases are shifting from central Halifax to suburban or semi-rural areas, and most cases are appearing in children under 12. He acknowledged that is having an impact on some schools, but with the imminent rollout of vaccines, that impact will be diminished.
The case numbers in the western and northern zones are stabilizing, but there is still evidence of low-level community transmission in the northern zone, Strang said.
Atlantic Canada case numbers
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