What we know about the Alberta plans for the possible approval of COVID-19 vaccine for kids

·4 min read
Six-year-old Eric Aviles received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a pediatric vaccine clinic for children ages 5 to 11 set up at Willard Intermediate School in Santa Ana, Calif., on Nov. 9.  (AP/Jae C. Hong - image credit)
Six-year-old Eric Aviles received the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a pediatric vaccine clinic for children ages 5 to 11 set up at Willard Intermediate School in Santa Ana, Calif., on Nov. 9. (AP/Jae C. Hong - image credit)

A COVID-19 vaccine for young kids could be approved in the near future but Alberta health officials have revealed few details about how and when parents may be able to book an appointment should Health Canada give the green light.

On Friday, Health Canada's chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said Canada's review of Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of five to 11 should be completed within the next "one to two weeks."

"As with all of the COVID-19 submissions, we're doing it on a priority basis and we have a dedicated team that's looking at that data and that data is not just the clinical data, but as well the formulation," she told a Public Health Agency of Canada briefing in Ottawa Friday.

"And we look at that in the Canadian context for the ... possible use in children."

But what will the rollout of the vaccine for kids aged five to 11 look like in Alberta?

Here's what we know so far about Alberta's plans for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for young children if approved.

How can Alberta parents get an appointment for their child?

A spokesperson with Alberta Health said Wednesday that while parents are waiting for Health Canada's review of the vaccine application, they should register their child online through the Alberta Vaccine Booking System.

Parents have been able to do this for a while, as the system has allowed anyone with an Alberta Health Care number to register since it launched.

Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press
Jae C. Hong/The Associated Press

But parents won't be able to book an appointment yet for those in the five to 11-year-old age group.

An Alberta Health spokesperson said it will make appointments available "as soon as possible" after the vaccine is approved and has arrived in Canada.

Where will the pediatric vaccine be offered if approved?

Alberta's health authorities are providing few details.

An Alberta Health spokesperson referred to Alberta's Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw's Tuesday COVID-19 briefing when asked about the province's rollout plans.

Hinshaw said plans are in the works for clinics and locations to offer the vaccine to kids in that age group if approved and that the provincial government is in regular contact with Health Canada officials.

"They will provide us a heads up but of course their process has to go through all the typical steps and so they are really not able to tell us a precise day but we are in regular communication with them," Hinshaw said Tuesday.

"Certainly if they reach that decision to approve the vaccine, then we will be ready to go to offer it to Albertans."

Health officials in some jurisdictions like Saskatchewan and Toronto have provided details on their vaccine rollout, including specifics on where kids can get the vaccine, vaccine shipment numbers and additional services to calm kids down at the appointment, like therapy dogs.

An Alberta Health Services non-scientific survey that closed on Nov. 8 asked parents what they could do to make families' vaccine experiences positive and if they planned on getting their child vaccinated, among other questions.

Results from the survey have not been made public yet.

Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters
Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters

Will there be vaccine clinics in schools?

An Edmonton Catholic School Division spokesperson said Tuesday that Alberta health authorities haven't reached out to them yet to host vaccine clinics.

At a board meeting Tuesday, Edmonton Public Schools officials said they've been in touch with regional health officials but nothing is planned for their schools.

"They are speculating that under the direction of the chief medical officer, children ages five to 11 will be vaccinated at health-identified clinics and not school-based clinics," said Nancy Petersen, managing director of strategic district supports with Edmonton Public Schools.

Alberta Health did not respond to a request to confirm if school-based vaccine clinics would be offered.

COVID-19 vaccine clinics were offered in many schools across the province for kids 12 and up earlier this fall.

Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press
Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press

Attendance was high at many of the vaccine clinics at Edmonton Public Schools, said Petersen. She said that many of the schools that did have high uptake were in areas of the city with lower vaccination rates at the start of the school year.

But that wasn't the case everywhere in the province, with 303 of the planned 2,401 school-based COVID immunization clinics — or about 12.6 per cent — called off in September mostly due to a low number of parental consent forms being turned in.

Is a consent form needed at the appointment?

An Alberta Health Services spokesperson said if the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine is approved, the parent or guardian will need to provide verbal consent at the appointment.

If the parent is unable to attend, the minor can bring a signed consent form.

The spokesperson also said if a minor does not have a consent form but is "deemed mature by the attending immunizer, parental consent is not required."

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