As provinces race to vaccinate their population amid the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccine makers are racing to get approvals for use of their shots in children.
So far, Canada has not approved any vaccines for the younger age groups.
“The sooner I can get a vaccine in their arm and give them some protection, the better I’ll feel,” said Kimberly Cook, a Nova Scotia mother of two teenagers.
Cook says Health Canada’s authorization of vaccine eligibility for youth under the age of 16 can’t come soon enough.
“When you start to see that there’s more and more cases in their age groups, then you really start to worry,” she said.
In Nova Scotia, nearly 30 per cent of the population has received one or both doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. In order to reach herd immunity, experts estimate the threshold is 70 per cent.
“You’re not going to get to herd immunity until you start immunizing children,” said Dr. Scott Halperin, the director of the Canadian Center for Vaccinology.
Halperin says other countries are now approving the use of the Pfizer vaccine in children over the age of 12, and he expects Health Canada will do the same soon.
“We should have adolescence being eligible for immunization in terms of having the vaccine approved for their use hopefully within weeks,” he said.
He points to the fact youth over the age of 16 were included in early clinical vaccine trials, and when emergency use authorization was granted to those vaccines, those under the age of 16 weren’t part of that initial approval.
Halperin says that’s now changing.
“Now, several of the vaccine manufacturers, along the way, added younger adolescents as well. Typically, around 12 years of age and older and they’re now receiving approval to extend the use of the vaccines in those age groups,” he said.
Nova Scotia’s Department of Health and Wellness says once COVID-19 vaccines are approved for use in people under the age of 16, the vaccine roll-out plan will be adjusted to meet the guidelines and recommendations for that cohort.