Vaccinating children 5 to 11 will bring us closer to ending pandemic, Sask. microbiologist says

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Pamela Beaudin, a Saskatoon mother, says she’s very eager to vaccinate her sons.   ( Submitted by Pamela Beaudin - image credit)
Pamela Beaudin, a Saskatoon mother, says she’s very eager to vaccinate her sons. ( Submitted by Pamela Beaudin - image credit)

Saskatoon mother Pamela Beaudin is ready to vaccinate her children. She says she has always trusted science — it's how she got her twin boys in the first place.

"Our boys are a product of IVF, so I trusted science to give me children, and I'm going to trust science to keep them safe," Beaudin said.

Liam and Wyatt will turn five in December and then be eligible to get the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine, expected to be authorized for use soon by Health Canada for kids five to 11.

Saskatchewan has already ordered 112,000 doses of the vaccine for kids in that age group, set to arrive in early- to mid-November.

Beaudin said she's "counting down the days" until her children get the jab.

"To me, it just makes sense to get them vaccinated and I will be so excited when we take them to go get their vaccination. It'll be a great day," she said.

She said her children have a good understanding of the vaccine and COVID-19 — which they refer to as the "bug."

"As much as they know they're going to get a needle, they want to protect those around them, they want to protect themselves and just help us all get back to that normalcy," Beaudin said.

Children in the United States aged five to 11 have already started receiving their shots. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized the vaccine for children and last week the U.S. Centers for Disease Control unanimously approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in that age group.

University of Saskatchewan clinical microbiologist Dr. Joseph Blondeau said vaccinating kids will bring us closer to ending the pandemic.

"The better the uptake, then the better the overall level of immunity and then we hopefully will start to see this thing go away," Blondeau said.

Nearly a third of Saskatchewan's COVID-19 cases are in people 11 and under. Last week, the Public Health Agency of Canada said children under 12 account for 20 per cent of all infections, which is the highest of all age groups.

Over the course of the pandemic, health officials have said it will take 85 to 90 per cent of the population being vaccinated to reach herd immunity.

Blondeau said he doesn't know the magic vaccination percentage that Saskatchewan needs to hit, but that vaccinating as many people as we can — including our youth — is "very helpful."

"As you reduce the number of susceptible people who are present in the population, then you decrease the ability of the virus to be able to circulate," Blondeau said.

Almost 16 per cent of the Canadian population is 14 years old or younger, according to Statistics Canada data released in July of this year.

The data doesn't show the percentage of children five to 11, but Blondeau said "regardless, it represents a significant proportion of the population."

"So, if we were to see 50 to 60 or 70 percent uptake within that population of the vaccination, that would certainly serve to raise the overall level of herd immunity," he said.

Saskatchewan has the second-highest percentage of children under the age of 14 in the country (19.4 per cent).

Sask. will have enough first-dose vaccines for all 5 to 11 year-olds

The province will receive enough first-dose vaccines to inoculate all five to 11 year olds who want it, officials said in late October.

Officials announced that 190 pediatric vaccine clinics will open in more than 100 communities in the province to inoculate children. Vaccines will also be available at the clinics for any parents who remain unvaccinated. A full listing of clinic locations and times will be available at www.saskatchewan.ca/COVID19-Vaccine.

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the government will not mandate that school children must receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

WATCH: Tam says children up to age 11 made up highest number of cases in latest COVID-19 modelling

Clinical trials indicate that the Pfizer vaccine had no safety concerns among children 5 to 11 years of age, according to a Saskatchewan Ministry of Health release.

The U.S. Centre for Disease Control said vaccine side effects in children were mild, self-limiting and similar to those seen in adults, with the most common side-effect being a sore arm.

Still, parents have voiced concerns about vaccinating their children and are worried about side effects, such as myocarditis, which is inflammation of the heart muscle that happens in extremely rare cases with mRNA vaccines.

Doctors have reiterated that side effects usually appear in the first few days of getting the jab and that there aren't longer term impacts.

As of Monday, 69 per cent of Saskatchewan's total population was fully immunized against COVID-19.

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