COVID-19 vaccines now available for youth 5-11
The Pfizer BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years has been approved by Health Canada.
In keeping with provincial guidance that is informed by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), children born between 2010 and 2016 are eligible to receive the paediatric Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine.
“We are very pleased to learn of Health Canada’s approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years of age and the recommendation by NACI,” said Dr. Charles Gardner, SMDHU’s Medical Officer of Health. “Getting 5-to-11-year-olds vaccinated is safe and the most effective way to protect them from COVID-19. This is the next major step in our efforts, locally and beyond, to protect children and the broader community from the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Two doses of the vaccine are recommended, with at least eight weeks between the first and second doses. (It is advised that children between five and 11 years of age wait 14 days before or after receiving another vaccine before getting their COVID-19 vaccine.)
Health Canada and NACI have both noted that preliminary evidence shows the vaccine is 91 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 in children aged 5-11 and no serious side effects have been identified.
The vaccine can also help safeguard against the disruptions to schooling and extracurricular activities and the social isolation that children have experienced during the pandemic, say health officials. Therefore, the benefits of this vaccine for children outweigh the risks. Canada has one of the most careful vaccine review systems in the world.
Information for parents and caregivers about the vaccine is available on the health unit’s website at simcoemuskokahealth.org, including how and where to get the vaccine, answers to frequently asked questions, and helpful resources about making for a positive vaccination experience.
Parents and guardians can now book an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccination for their children at a community clinic through Ontario.ca/bookvaccine or by calling 1-833-943-3900.
Public health community clinics in Simcoe Muskoka will be open for booked appointments starting Friday, Nov. 26. In addition to community clinic locations, the vaccine is also available at participating pharmacies and the Ontario GO-VAXX bus. Individuals can also check with their primary care provider to see if they are offering vaccination.
As of Nov. 23, the health unit reports that about 25 per cent of COVID-19 cases are in children under 12 years of age, who until this week have been ineligible for immunization. A contributing factor to transmission in schools is close contact between individuals within households, particularly if individuals are not fully vaccinated. Of all school-aged cases in the region, approximately 50 per cent are the result of close contact in the household.
In response to the rapidly rising COVID-19 cases amongst children and youth and to minimize infection rates in school settings, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) has revised the class order for self-isolation, under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, Section 22, to include those 18 years and younger who are not fully vaccinated and who live in the same house with an unimmunized person who has been identified as a close contact to someone with COVID-19. Such individuals are now required to self-isolate for 10 days along with the close contact in that household.
“In-person learning is essential for the overall well-being of children and youth and keeping schools open is one of our highest priorities,” said Gardner. “This additional public health measure aims to decrease the number of asymptomatic children entering the schools, which in turn will protect more student cohorts and minimize learning disruptions due to COVID-19.”
The health unit reminds the public it is also essential to follow current public health measures, including staying home when feeling ill, maintaining a physical distance of at least two metres from those living outside of your household, wearing a mask indoors and outdoors when physical distancing is not possible, covering your cough and washing your hands regularly.
The province has announced it is distributing 11 million rapid antigen screening tests to all public schools ahead of the December break to add an additional layer of protection over the holiday period and as students return to school in January. Each student will take home a pack of five rapid antigen tests to use over the holidays and throughout the return to in-person learning.