Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday B.C.'s immunization plan will include adolescents after Health Canada approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for people as young as 12, adding they could be vaccinated before the school year ends.
"We are absolutely planning on integrating that into our program," Henry said Wednesday while adding many details are still being sorted out.
"There's lots of possibilities, including making sure we can get that done prior to the end of school this year."
The remarks came in an impromptu media availability via phone and video conferencing.
Henry says a little less than 300,000 people will be added to the vaccination plan as a result of the approval of younger people.
Henry said this number of people should not impact the province's plan of getting first doses to everyone by the end of June, nor will it interfere with timelines for second doses.
School-based vaccination a possibility
Kids may receive their vaccines at school, Henry said, which has long been an efficient method of delivery.
But strategies may vary in different communities, she added. It might make sense to vaccinate large numbers of kids in some communities all at once, perhaps when adults there are receiving their second doses.
Henry repeatedly stressed there are many details to consider with the approval only announced today.
Risks to young people lower
Henry said the COVID risks to younger people's health remain lower than older people but it is important to vaccinate them.
Studies she has seen showed no vaccinated young people caught severe cases of COVID-19, nor were any hospitalized.
"These vaccines are incredible that way," Henry said.
The previous age cutoff for the vaccine was 16.
The Pfizer vaccine is the first authorized for use in younger people. The three other products authorized for use in Canada — AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna — can be given only to people over the age of 18 for now.
Henry said studies involving vaccinated children as young as six months of age are ongoing.