Tens of thousands of children younger than 11 could soon be eligible for their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, Ottawa Public Health (OPH) says.
Dr. Vera Etches, the city's medical officer of health, shared details Thursday afternoon on how the rollout of vaccines for children between the ages of five and 11 — which have not yet been approved by Health Canada, but should soon be — will work.
Local public health officials expect to see first doses delivered to 77,000 eligible children in that age group who live in Ottawa.
They will be able to get a first dose of the vaccine within four weeks of Health Canada's approval and the province of Ontario delivering the necessary doses, OPH said.
"Once the vaccine is approved for children five to 11, don't wait," Etches urged parents at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
"Only vaccines that are proven to be safe, effective and of high quality ... are authorized for use in Canada."
No child will be vaccinated without their parents' consent, Etches added.
3 new vaccine clinics to open
COVID-19 cases have been particularly high among school-aged children this fall, with 10 times as many Ottawa elementary students involved in school-related outbreaks in September 2021 compared to the same month in 2020.
That situation should be eased once Health Canada announces Friday the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been approved for children aged five to 11, an announcement CBC News has already confirmed.
Following that announcement, doses could be shipped to the nation's capital "within the week," Etches said.
Once the vaccine is officially approved and those doses are safely stored in local refrigerators, immunizations will take place at the four pre-existing community clinics plus three new ones opening to handle the extra demand, Etches said.
Those new locations are:
The Nepean Sportsplex curling rink at 1701 Woodroffe Ave.
The former St. Patrick's Intermediate School at 1485 Heron Rd.
The Rideauview Community Centre at 4310 Shore Line Dr.
OPH will also spend four weeks running 73 after-hours pop-up clinics at schools across the city — an option, Etches said, for those who can't get their children to the community sites or feel more comfortable in their school's environment.
Other vaccination options include local pharmacies and neighbourhood vaccination hubs, Etches added, with a full rundown of sites listed on the health unit's website.
Appointments are not yet available, but families will book children's appointments through the provincial booking system.
'Will make a tremendous difference'
Unvaccinated children aged five to 11 represent the group that's having "the most disruption to their lives right now," Etches said.
"I think this will make a tremendous difference, not only for the children but for families," she said.
Even with doses seemingly on the way for younger children, Etches warned they still won't be fully vaccinated with two doses in time for the holidays.
"So I want to encourage people to proceed with caution, check on the aspects [their holiday] gatherings and choose the lower-risk options," she said.