With the start of the school year right around the corner, Quebec is considering allowing 11-year-olds who are turning 12 soon to get vaccinated against COVID-19, mirroring the steps taken by several other provinces.
The age of eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in Canada is 12, while the other vaccines are approved for adults.
Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba are among the provinces who have agreed to vaccinate children who will turn 12 by the end of the year.
Christian Dubé, Quebec's health minister, said he has asked public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda for his opinion on the matter.
"I think that's smart, what they've done," said Dubé. "There is a good chance that this is the right thing to do, but I just want to make sure."
Odessa Shultz, 11, attends Lajoie elementary school in Montreal's Outremont neighbourhood, and she's worried about being around hundreds of unvaccinated children when the school year begins.
"The kids can easily transmit to each other and to other schools," Odessa said.
"My sister is in high school. She's in a different school. So if I get COVID, I'll give it to her. Maybe she could get it slightly, but she doesn't get sick because of the vaccine, but then gives it to her friends who have little sisters and brothers or older ones."
Odessa turns 12 in December.
"I try not to think about it, just thinking about the good things about the school year, like making new friends," she said.
She's the only one in her household who's not yet eligible to get the shot. When restaurant patios were allowed to reopen, Odessa's family went out for a meal, but the 11-year-old kept her mask on the whole time — a form of protest, highlighting the fact she was the only one who was unvaccinated.
"She's been very clear about, you know, being the odd one out," said Jennifer Dorner, Odessa's mother. "And she's very looking forward to being part of that, you know, the vaccinated people in the family. "
As it stands, the province is not requiring elementary and high school students to wear masks while seated in class, and they also won't need to stay within the same classroom bubble.
On Wednesday, Education Minister Jean-François Roberge said he was open to tightening those rules, but would prefer to stick to the current plan.
On the vaccination front, both Pfizer and Moderna are conducting clinical vaccine trials for children under 12. Experts are hoping the results will be available in the coming months.
Even if Quebec does not change its eligibility rules, Mila Bergman, also 11, will soon be able to get her first dose. She turns 12 a few weeks into the school year.
She goes to Collège Stanislas, another school located in Outremont, which has children from kindergarten to high school.
"Most of the people at my school are vaccinated because they are 12 years old and up," Mila said. "So it's not that worrying. But still, I'm not vaccinated and it's a little weird that I'm not vaccinated and [almost] everyone is."
The health minister said he expects a final decision the vaccine eligibility of 11-year-olds turning 12 to be made in the coming weeks.