Quebec vaccine plan for young children to involve schools, vaccination centres, minister says

·4 min read
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé says the province wants to administer one dose of vaccine to children between the age of five and 11 by Christmas.  (The Canadian Press - image credit)
Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé says the province wants to administer one dose of vaccine to children between the age of five and 11 by Christmas. (The Canadian Press - image credit)

With Health Canada finally approving the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for young children, the Quebec government says it's putting the finishing touches on its rollout plan.

On Friday, Health Canada gave the green light to the the pharmaceutical company's vaccine, also known as Cominarty, for children age five to 11, saying it's more than 90 per cent effective against COVID-19.

With that announcement, roughly 700,000 children in Quebec are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, according to Health Minister Christian Dubé.

Dubé said the province's complete vaccination plan will be unveiled some time next week. But he did offer some details on Friday.

Dubé said the province wants to give each child one dose of the vaccine by Christmas — reiterating what was said earlier this month by Daniel Paré, the man overseeing the province's COVID-19 vaccination campaign.

"That would be a very nice Christmas gift," Dubé said during a news conference.

Dubé said he expects the vaccines to be administered both in schools and in vaccination centres. The goal is to make it easy for parents to be with their children as they're getting their shots.

"We're going to keep those vaccination centres open until Christmas just to make sure we allow the parents to accompany their kids."

Dubé also said he does not expect children to have to abide by vaccination passport rules once the campaign is in full swing.

More than 13 million COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in the province.

The minister said he's not sure what the target vaccination rate will be for children between the ages of five and 11, but said he hopes it will be as high as possible — hopefully as successful as the one for 12- to 17-year-olds.

According to the latest provincial data, 95 per cent of people in that age group have received two vaccine doses — the highest rate of any age group.

"Could we aim for that? I don't know," Dubé said. "Let's aim for the highest percentage possible because we know this is the final act we have to do with the population that is eligible for the vaccine."


Sigh of relief for parents, kids, but not everyone on board

Mario Joseph Deaco, a nine-year-old student who plays hockey for East Hill Elementary in Montreal's Rivière-des-Prairies neighbourhood, is looking forward to getting his vaccine shots.

He says he wants the pandemic to be a thing of the past.

"Basically, we won't need to wear any more masks at school," he said, referring to the province's rule that elementary students keep their masks on while sitting in class.

"And we could have more people on the ice [too]."

Katherine Korakakis, the president of the English Parents' Committee Association of Quebec, says her 10-year-old daughter is also eager to get the vaccine.

"She's anxious for us to be able to just go back to what life was before," she said.

"Nobody knows what it's going to look like but definitely to be able to do some family trips and see family we haven't seen in over two years."

Étienne Gosselin/CBC
Étienne Gosselin/CBC

Although many parents and children are excited about the opportunity to get the Pfizer shot, numbers from the province's public health institute (INSPQ) suggest it might be hard to reach a high vaccination rate among five- to 11-year-olds.

According to the most recent data from the INSPQ, 42 per cent of parents surveyed say they "totally agree" with getting their children vaccinated and 19 per cent said they "somewhat agree."

The percentage of parents who totally disagreed with the idea was at 21 per cent, and another seven per cent somewhat disagreed. Eleven percent of respondents were undecided.

Ève Dubé, a medical anthropologist with the INSPQ, said many parents don't see the benefit of vaccinating their younger children.

"I think there's this perception [of], 'do I need to have my children, my child vaccinated if he's not going to die or be hospitalized because of COVID?'" she said.

She also said many parents are worried about potential side effects for their children.

Filomena Tassi, Canada's public services and procurement minister, says the first doses of the newly approved vaccine will start to arrive in the country on Sunday.

More than 2.9 million doses are expected — enough to provide a dose to every eligible child in Canada.

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