Toronto officials say they are preparing to vaccinate the over 200,000 eligible children aged five to 11 in the city against COVID-19.
A COVID-19 Vaccination Planning Group has been formed which includes health partners, school board, community representatives and Ontario’s Ministry of Health.
Health Canada still has to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for children of the age group. In Canada, only those aged 12 and older are eligible at the moment.
School staff in Ontario must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or be regularly tested for the virus.
The Toronto District School Board mandated the requirement that trustees, employees and anyone in direct contact with students and staff must be fully vaccinated. The deadline to show proof of vaccination is Nov. 1.
No such rule is in place for students, but Toronto’s top doctor has asked for that to change.
Dr. Eileen de Villa wrote to the city’s board of health this month, asking it to request the province to require COVID-19 vaccination for eligible students based on their age. She was set to present that recommendation to the board at a Monday meeting.
In her Sept. 13 letter to the board of health, de Villa referenced the nine other diseases covered under the Immunization of School Pupils Act, which students enrolled in school must be vaccinated against.
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COVID-19 is currently not one of those designated diseases, and de Villa wrote that the safety and effectiveness of approved vaccines has been proven in children 12 and older.
“Given the current epidemiology of COVID-19 and the need to support the safe re-opening of schools, it recommended that the province require COVID-19 vaccination for students who are eligible based on their age/year of birth,” she wrote.
Speaking at a board of health meeting Monday, de Villa said the case rate involving children aged four to 11 has increased to 64 per 100,000 up from 57 per 100,000 last week.
Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott said at an unrelated press conference Monday that the province will look at “anything” that would help to protect people from COVID-19. She highlighted the high vaccination rate among those aged 12 to 17.
On Sept. 20, Pfizer said its vaccine worked for children aged five to 11 and was in the process of getting authorization from U.S. officials. The vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech is available for anyone 12 and older.
“We continue to do everything we can as a City government to fight COVID-19 and save lives. Toronto Public Health has formed this Vaccination Planning Group so that our city will be ready to help children get vaccinated as quickly as possible following the necessary approvals from Health Canada,” said Mayor John Tory in a statement on Monday.
“This will help keep our kids safe and provide greater protection in our schools and communities across the city.”
—With files from The Canadian Press