COVID vaccine for kids could be coming to Simcoe-Muskoka sooner than expected

SMDHU anticipates kids' COVID vaccine approval in November

Looks like our kids could be rolling up their sleeves for a shot sooner than we thought.

“I have been informed that it probably would receive approval sometime in November,” said Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) medical officer of health Dr. Charles Gardner of a COVID vaccine for kids aged 5-11. “Although we were originally told we could expect the roll-out early in the new year, it seems more likely now that it will actually take place within this calendar year, to begin with.”

Health Canada has received a submission from Pfizer for a vaccine to be used with children aged 5-11, and Dr. Gardner says he anticipates it will receive approval from the federal body. Following that, recommendations would have to be handed down from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization and from the provincial government. “If all of that proceeds as we anticipate, then we would be commencing immunization of children, and thus we are preparing to do that,” he said.

Since the SMDHU is investing its efforts in an upcoming mass immunization program, Gardner says the health unit will not be able to proceed with catch-up vaccinations of students in grades seven and eight against meningitis, hepatitis B and HPV. “We certainly regret this, but we do have to prioritize in order to continue to respond effectively to the pandemic,” commented Gardner.

The upcoming mass immunization program will be no small feat, especially with some factors that were not at play while vaccinating adults. “It will be, to my knowledge, the largest campaign of its nature, in history,” said Gardner. “The mass vaccination of school-aged children, and it’s not something that they can receive on their own. They’re going to need their parents with them for consent and for comfort,” said Gardner.

“There’s the potential for much higher emotion related to this, we’re taking more time because of that: the need for the added sensitivity in working with young children in providing vaccination,” he continued. “And we don’t know what the uptake will be as well, and we may very well find there’s also increased opposition.”

The need for vaccination among children and their families was highlighted by some recent data presented by Gardner on Wednesday. “We’ve had, since September, a total of nine confirmed outbreaks, all of them in elementary school. So this is important given that these children are too young to receive immunization, whereas we have a fairly high vaccination coverage rate among students in secondary schools, helping to protect them from outbreaks.”