Strang defends 8-week interval between COVID-19 shots for N.S. children

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Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, speaks at a COVID-19 briefing on July 12, 2021. Strang says giving 2nd doses of vaccine too quickly will make children vulnerable again to COVID-19 in just a few months.  (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)
Dr. Robert Strang, the chief medical officer of health, speaks at a COVID-19 briefing on July 12, 2021. Strang says giving 2nd doses of vaccine too quickly will make children vulnerable again to COVID-19 in just a few months. (Communications Nova Scotia - image credit)

A Nova Scotia parent is urging the province to consider speeding up access to the second dose of COVID-19 vaccine for young children.

Sabrina Smith has children aged five and eight, and says the spread of the virus at the moment means parents should be able to get their child's second shot sooner than the current eight-week waiting period.

She's concerned about the risk of catching the virus next week when school resumes in person.

"That's a pretty large cohort of children that will either be fully unvaccinated or partially vaccinated," she said Wednesday.

Vaccinations for children 5-11 years old in Nova Scotia opened on Dec. 2. Both of Smith's children have had one vaccine shot, but under current guidelines in Nova Scotia, they need to wait eight weeks for their second dose, meaning it will be Jan. 27 before those shots can be given at the earliest.

Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine for children based on studies that used a three-week interval between shots.

Saskatchewan lets parents opt for the three-week interval and some Ontario jurisdictions are shortening the waiting period. Parents in New Brunswick and Alberta are also calling for shorter intervals.

Smith said parents in Nova Scotia should have the option to get a second shot for their child after three weeks.

"I think in this particular case, it is wise for us to have the ability to choose for our children — taking into consideration our specific situation — to do the three-week interval if that meets our needs as parents," she said.

"It would make me feel I've done everything I can to protect them."

'Look at the science'

But Nova Scotia's Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Robert Strang, disagrees.

"No. You look at the science," he said Wednesday. "Even if people are immunized today, it takes them a couple of weeks to build up immunity. Kids are going to have a good level of immunity from their first dose of vaccine."

Strang said a longer interval is the right choice.

"Vaccination is about having the best long-term immunity. If we immunize kids too quickly, we put them all at risk of then becoming vulnerable again a few months down the road," Strang said.

He noted that 30 to 40 per cent of people aged five to 11 in Nova Scotia still haven't gotten any vaccine, and he's focused on getting first shots to more of those children.

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