Both public health units in Hamilton and Niagara region say, like Toronto, they’re making preparations to vaccinate children five to 11 against COVID-19.
Toronto’s medical officer of health (MOH) revealed on Monday the city has formed a COVID-19 vaccination planning group, which enlists health partners, school boards, community representatives and Ontario’s ministry of health.
Dr. Eileen de Villa went on to ask the city’s board of health to reach out to the province to add COVID-19 to the list of diseases students enrolled in school must be vaccinated against.
“Given the current epidemiology of COVID-19 and the need to support the safe re-opening of schools, it (is) recommended that the province require COVID-19 vaccination for students who are eligible based on their age/year of birth,” de Villa wrote.
At a board of health meeting Monday, de Villa tied her appeal to rising case rates involving children aged four to 11 which moved to 64 per 100,000 over the weekend, up from last week’s 57 per 100,000.
Hamilton’s MOH says the city is also working on a plan for the potential rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for five to 11.
However, Dr. Elizabeth Richardson said the speed of the health unit’s initiative will depend on direction from National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and Public Health Ontario.
“Consistent with Hamilton’s vaccine rollout to date, including health equity principles as its foundation, a local plan will be announced and COVID-19 vaccines will be administered to this age group as soon as possible, following direction from the Province,” Richardson told Global News in an email.
Based on 2016 Canadian census data, roughly 50,000 children aged five to 11 will likely be the next group eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations in Hamilton.
Over a third of the city’s active COVID-19 cases (38.14 per cent) as of Sept. 26 are among those aged 19 and under. Over 21 per cent are under the age of 10.
Niagara’s acting medical officer of health says about 32,500 children are likely to be entitled to a shot in the region when approval is given.
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Dr. Mustafa Hirji says the health unit has “mapped out” a number of scenarios tied to uptake at clinics, pharmacies and primary care partners.
“We’ve also been looking geographically of where do these actually students live? So where we’re going to make the most sense to actually run some of our clinics,” Hirji said.
He went to say they’re also already brainstorming messaging campaigns to notify parents of when and how they can vaccinate their children.
The MOH says the primary concern will be acquiring the new variation of the vaccine slated for manufacture which is an estimated one-third of the dosage size being used in current shots.
“I think the big hiccup here could be the availability of vaccines,” Hirji said.
“So the Pfizer vaccine is actually going to be a special pediatric reformulation of the vaccine. It’s not going to be the same vaccine we currently have in freezers.”
He says it’s likely the rollout will be similar to what was seen with the initial doses of Pfizer administered to seniors December through February, when certain vulnerable groups were singled out for initial doses.
“I’m hoping the production is going to be ramping up a lot more quickly, so there won’t be those constraints,” said Hirji.
“But I think that is one possible concern we may have and that might end up being the limiting factor of how quickly we can vaccinate that population.”
Just over 26 per cent of Niagara Region’s active COVID-19 cases are among those aged under 20, as of Sunday.
Vaccinations spike 24% in Hamilton since start of Ontario's certificate program
In the days following Ontario’s implementation of its vaccine certificate program, Hamilton’s average daily vaccinations jumped well above the September average from an estimated 1,500 per day to 1,900 between Wednesday and Sunday.
It’s a 24 per cent increase over the same period between Sept. 15 through 19 with the largest uptake on Thursday Sept. 22 when more than 2,200 doses were put into arms.
Hamilton’s two-dose rate among eligible people aged 12-plus is now at 76.7 per cent as of the end of the weekend, with first doses now at 82.9 per cent. Close to 822,000 doses have been administered overall in the city.
The city is still behind the provincial average which checked in at 80.62 per cent in two doses and 86.19 per cent, as of Sunday.
Read more: ‘We weren’t thinking about other people’: unvaccinated Alberta man on his time in ICU with COVID-19
Niagara Region didn’t see much of a spike in doses after the start of the Ford government’s proof of vaccination policy.
Week over week in the last two periods between Wednesday and Thursday, the region only saw about 150 total shots administered.
Over 700,000 doses have been administered in Niagara Region since their COVID vaccination program was launched late in 2020.
Just over 70 per cent of residents have completed a series of shots in Niagara while 75.3 per cent have had at least one dose as of Sept. 26.