COVID-19: Vaccine booking to begin Tuesday for children 5 to 11 in London-Middlesex

A healthcare worker holds a vial of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. AP Photo/Lynne Sladky

Days after Health Canada authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11, the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU) has announced that local parents and guardians will be able to begin booking appointments for their young children starting on Tuesday.

The health unit’s booking portal will begin taking appointments starting at 8 a.m., MLHU officials said in a media release on Monday — issued a short time after the Ontario government announced a similar move with the provincial booking system.

The vaccine will require two doses of 10 micrograms each for kids aged five to 11 — one-third of the dose for adults. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending the two doses be spaced eight weeks apart.

Children who are turning five before the end of the year are also eligible to receive the paediactric version of the vaccine, the health unit said. Children who turn 12 between their first and second dose will receive the normal formulation for their second.

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“Over 28,000 appointments over the next four weeks will be available starting tomorrow to kids in this age group. In addition to those appointments at the mass vaccination clinics, vaccines will also be available shortly in participating pharmacies and primary care offices,” said Dr. Alex Summers, the region’s associate medical officer of health, during a media briefing on Monday.

“We’re anticipating the arrival of the paediatric formulation of the COVID-19 vaccine mid-week and the first vaccines will and should be administered starting this Friday.”

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Seventy to 75 per cent of appointments at mass vaccination clinics will be dedicated to children under 12, he said. The paediactric vaccine is expected to be available in participating pharmacies and primary care offices by early next week.

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In a statement prior to the briefing, health officials said they had been planning the move for weeks, making the Western Fair Agriplex and Mount Brydges vaccination sites more welcoming for children. In addition, officials were preparing resources to provide to parents who may have questions.

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Children attending the mass vaccination sites will be greeted with bright-coloured banners, stickers on the floor promoting social distancing, and “stress stars” that they can squeeze, along with activities and family pods where they will receive the COVID-19 shot, the health unit said.

Summers noted the paediactric formulation’s effectiveness, with studies showing an estimated 91 per cent reduction in the risk of symptomatic COVID-19 in children five to 11. In addition, he said, the vaccine decreases the risk of complications from COVID-19, including long-term effects of COVID and hospitalization.

“The vaccine will help protect loved ones around kids, protecting those who can get very sick if infected, and those for whom the vaccine may not be as effective because their immune system doesn’t quite respond as well,” Summers said during the briefing.

“The vaccine has shown itself through its administration and adults to be remarkably safe, and the trials that were done in those five to 11 show the same. Severe adverse events are exceptionally, exceptionally rare.”

As of Nov. 14, of the more than 22,700,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine administered in Ontario, just over 15,200 saw adverse events following immunization (AEFI) reported, according to the latest weekly report from Public Health Ontario.

Of those, roughly 870, or about 5.7 per cent of AEFI cases, were deemed to be serious, leading to hospitalization or death — about 0.0038 per cent of all COVID-19 vaccinations in Ontario.

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More information about the paediactric vaccine can be found on the health unit’s website. Those looking to book an appointment can also call 226-289-3560 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

According to the health unit, nearly 90 per cent of people 12 and over have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, while 86.7 per cent have seen two doses.

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