Tam talking to provinces, territories about protecting kids too young to be vaccinated

·3 min read
None of the vaccines approved by Health Canada have been approved for children under the age of 12, raising questions about the return of school this fall.  (Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images - image credit)
None of the vaccines approved by Health Canada have been approved for children under the age of 12, raising questions about the return of school this fall. (Martin Bureau/AFP via Getty Images - image credit)

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said today her team is having "focused discussions" with the provinces on how to limit the risk of COVID-19 spreading among children who can't receive a vaccine yet.

While much of the adult population in Canada has received at least one dose, none of the vaccines cleared for use by Health Canada have been approved for children under the age of 12.

Several trials are underway to test the effectiveness and safety of existing vaccines. Dr. Caroline Quach, then chair of Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), has said that an approved vaccine for kids isn't expected until 2022.

As a result, questions are being asked about the return of school in the fall.

"We are having some focused discussions with the provinces in terms of the guidance going forward, because they can't be vaccinated at this point — and then what do you do with them?" Tam told a virtual briefing today.

"So one does have to still have some plans in place in terms of reducing risk in those settings in which children will congregate."

She said her office is offering the provinces and territories guidance on how best to deal with children at, for example, day and overnight camps, and at school this September.

Tam pointed to the Yukon, which has a high vaccination rate among eligible residents but recently saw an outbreak among young people which then spread.

The objective is to keep children engaged in social and school settings for as much as possible. - Dr. Theresa Tam

"So there is a risk of outbreaks in the non- and under-vaccinated populations, so that is a reality going forwards," Tam said.

"It is a difficult space at the moment but I think the objective is to keep children engaged in social and school settings for as much as possible. I do think looking at ventilation and looking at all the other measures, which have been working in terms of safety plans, is key."

On track to vaccinate 80% of eligible population: Tam

Another key to keeping schools open will be community transmission, said Tam.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, more than 40 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Canada so far. That means 78 per cent of people aged 12 years or older have had at least one dose, and 44 per cent of people 12 years or older are now fully vaccinated.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press
Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Tam said Canada is "within reach of having at least 80 per cent of the eligible population fully vaccinated." She urged those who have yet to receive a dose to book their appointments before the colder months arrive.

"We must keep the momentum up," she said

"The best target to reach for, to get ahead of highly transmissible variants as we head for an indoors fall, is getting the highest possible vaccine coverage, as quickly as possible."

So far, the vaccination campaign has had a massive impact on the pandemic's course in Canada.

The health agency said the number of active cases and the average of daily cases are about 95 per cent lower than they were during the peak of the third wave. The average number of people with COVID-19 being treated in hospitals daily has dropped by more than 80 per cent.

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