Photo By: CDC from Unsplash

Last Friday, Health Canada announced its approval of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 Comirnaty vaccine for use in children aged five to 11. Following this announcement, Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH) has begun preparations for rapid distribution of the vaccine as soon as supply allows.

There have been many COVID-19 cases in children and teens in Niagara, with over 3,000 cases in individuals under the age of 20 to date. However, younger age groups have been disproportionately affected. 

In the month of October this year, there were around 100 cases of children infected with COVID-19 in the region. As a result, dozens of daycares, early childhood education centres, elementary and secondary schools, and families have been affected.

While most children with COVID-19 have minor or no symptoms, some children with COVID-19 may become severely ill. Some may face major medical issues, while others may endure more serious long-term symptoms. In extremely rare situations, the infection can be potentially fatal. 

Clinical studies have indicated that vaccination can prevent symptomatic sickness in children. A recent Public Health Ontario study also examined two trials that confirmed near 100 per cent effectiveness in the vaccine preventing symptoms in children and youth under the age of 18. 

This newly approved vaccine will give much-needed protection to children aged five to 11, who now have the highest risk of COVID-19 infection in Niagara.

According to Pfizer-BioNTech, the vaccine will be provided in two 10-microgram doses three weeks apart. While similar, the newly approved Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has a different formulation from the one used in adults and children aged 12 and older. The vaccine for younger children is equally effective as the version used in adults, but with fewer side effects, ensuring that children have as positive a vaccination experience as possible.

With last week’s approval from Health Canada, the federal government has begun allowing the importation of the vaccine in the coming days and will begin distributing it across the country this week. The first doses of these vaccines arrived in Canada on Sunday with approximately 3 million doses expected in the country by the end of this week.

Similar to the rollout of the previous formulation of the vaccine, the provinces and territories will oversee vaccine distribution. Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott has indicated that the province’s booking system should be available for parents to arrange appointments for their children as early as this week. 

Public Health anticipates receiving the vaccine by the end of the month and will then begin offering child-friendly clinics to distribute it. NRPH is confident that every child aged five to 11 will be able to get their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccination before the holidays.

Parents and guardians with questions or concerns about their child receiving the COVID-19 vaccine are urged to register for NRPH’s virtual town hall on Tuesday, Nov. 23 from 7-8 p.m. NRPH will be recording and sharing this town hall through their website for parents and guardians who are unable to attend live.

As NRPH does not currently have access to the new vaccines, the organization is asking that residents wait for further information before attending vaccine clinics or pharmacies with their children.

Individuals looking to keep up to date with the latest information regarding these vaccines are encouraged to visit the NRPH website, as it is updated regularly. Additionally, Public Health has compiled an FAQ webpage to answer the commonly asked questions regarding children’s vaccination and how the process will work in Niagara.