Vancouver father Geoff Berner says he’s sick of waiting for Health Canada to make up its mind on COVID-19 vaccines for children under 12.
“They don’t seem to want to protect children at all here,” he said. “So it seems like it’s up to us to protect our kids.”
That’s why he plans to go across the border, to a pharmacy in Washington state, to vaccinate his eight-year-old daughter.
“We’ve got an appointment for around 12 on Nov. 22, so my partner is going to drive our eight-year-old down to Bellingham and to the pharmacy there. And it’s just set to go,” he said.
He’s not the only one. Global News spoke to several parents from the west coast to Ontario who, while they didn’t want to provide their names for the record, said they were considering or have already vaccinated their children in the United States.
The vaccine has been approved for children for more than two weeks in the U.S. Although Health Canada received an application from Pfizer for a COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged five-11 on Oct. 18, it still hasn’t made a decision but is expected to do so in the coming weeks. It’s also now considering a similar application from Moderna, for children aged six-11.
Dr. Supriya Sharma, a senior medical adviser with Health Canada, said on Nov. 12 that Health Canada was likely going to release its decision on Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine within one to two weeks, meaning that it could come soon.
This isn’t soon enough for Berner.
“We’re satisfied that the vaccine is safe and we’re looking for some extra layer of protection because the government here isn’t providing much protection at all,” he said.
Dr. Stan Houston, an infectious diseases specialist at the University of Alberta, said that he has no issue with parents crossing the border to get their kids vaccinated.
“Good for those parents,” he said. “The vaccine is a great idea for kids, and logically then, the sooner the better.”
Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious diseases specialist at the University of Toronto’s schools of medicine and public health, isn’t so sure.
“I don’t think it’s a great idea,” she said. “I think that vaccine approval for the five to 11 years old is imminent.”
She thinks parents should wait a few weeks for Canada’s expected approval.
Aside from that, Banerji said, “there are increased risks” with travelling to the U.S., meaning that a child could be exposed to the disease on their way to get vaccinated.
“In some parts of the States, throughout the pandemic, America has had three times the number of cases of COVID versus Canada, three times the number of deaths consistently. And so it depends on where you’re going and what the public health measures are,” she said.
Banerji also says that there may be extra paperwork involved to prove that a child was vaccinated, if they received their shot outside of Canada.
And while Global News has confirmed that the federal government will soon drop its requirement that travellers returning to Canada present a negative PCR test, children will still have to quarantine when they get home — meaning no school or daycare for two weeks.
Houston agrees that these are potential downsides, but the upside of having kids vaccinated makes this a “slam dunk” decision for parents if they’re able to bear the potential cost.
“I think vaccination of kids down to age five is a very important priority for those children themselves, for their health, for their ability to benefit from school and other normal activities, and also for all of us in regards to transmission of COVID in the community,” he said.
— with files from Global News’ Jamie Mauracher