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‘Premature’ to remove COVID restrictions with youth not yet eligible for vaccine: epidemiologist

Click to play video: 'Studies underway to determine vaccine efficacy for those under 12' Studies underway to determine vaccine efficacy for those under 12
WATCH: As COVID-19 vaccination rates continue to climb, some are concerned about the youngest population still ineligible to receive a shot. An epidemiologist calls it “premature” to remove COVID restrictions before that population can be vaccinated. Callum Smith has more. – Jul 7, 2021

When health officials deem it safe to do so, New Brunswick resident Alex Morton is hoping his three kids, all under the age of 12, will be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

“I’d like to see them get them get vaccinated as soon as safely possible,” he says.

Currently, Pfizer is available to those 12 and up, and Moderna is offered to people 18 years and older.

“We want to balance out the safety of them getting the vaccine,” he says. “If they haven’t done tests yet, I don’t really want them putting needles in arms yet.

“I would’ve liked to have seen them do tests by now, but hopefully they can get them done as soon as possible.”

Read more: COVID-19: How to protect children who are too young for a vaccine

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There’s also a bit of sense of urgency from Newfoundland and Labrador-based epidemiologist Susanne Gulliver, but she too wants to proceed with caution.

“The important thing is we get the data we need to make sure it’s safe and it works for younger children,” she says.

“Would I like it to be sooner? Yes. But they’re kids so we have to make sure that it is safe for children. Because you know they are not the ones making the choice; their parents are.”

But as some jurisdictions remove COVID-19 restrictions, she’s concerned about that demographic still being ineligible.

Click to play video: 'N.B. makes COVID-19 rapid testing kits available to some businesses' N.B. makes COVID-19 rapid testing kits available to some businesses
N.B. makes COVID-19 rapid testing kits available to some businesses – Jul 6, 2021

“I think it’s premature,” she says, “because anyone who has small children knows they catch whatever is going around and they don’t understand social distancing, they don’t get hand washing, they put everything in their mouths.”

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New Brunswick intends to reach Phase 3 on its ‘Path to Green,’ meaning all COVID-19 precautions would be lifted on or by Aug. 2.

Global News asked the New Brunswick Department of Health Wednesday morning how many cases were found in youth under the age of 12, but did not receive an answer by time of publication.

On the provincial COVID-19 dashboard, only vaccine numbers are broken down by age group.

Throughout the pandemic, the province only reported cases as an individual 19 and under for the youngest demographic, making it unclear how common cases are in those under 12.

“Any unvaccinated part of our population is at a higher risk of contracting COVID,” Dr. Jennifer Russell said Wednesday. “We do know that the younger people are, the less risks there are with serious outcomes.”

Read more: Pfizer to study COVID-19 vaccine in children under 12

A Public Health Agency of Canada spokesperson says all authorized vaccine manufacturers are currently conducting, or planning, studies for young children.

A Pfizer Canada spokesperson says studies are indeed underway for its vaccine in young children.

“If safety and immunogenicity is confirmed,” Pfizer hopes to submit its vaccine for potential approval in the U.S. “sometime in the September-October timeframe for children 5 to 11, and soon after for 6 months to 5,” Corporate Affairs Director Christina Antoniou says.

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The spokesperson says data is shared with Health Canada as soon as it’s available.

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