More than 15,000 appointments were made for Manitoba kids aged 5-11 to get vaccinated in the first seven hours of the province offering vaccination slots Monday morning.
Manitoba parents could start booking appointments for their kids starting at 6 a.m. after Health Canada approved use of the Pfizer vaccine for children on Friday.
The first shots will start being administered Thursday after the vaccine shipments begin arriving in Winnipeg Tuesday, said Dr. Joss Reimer who heads up Manitoba’s vaccine taskforce.
“It’s very encouraging to see that many thousands of people jumping on booking appointments within hours of it being available,” Reimer said at a Monday afternoon press conference, where she said another 2,000 appointments had been made by 1 p.m.
“We just look forward to offering your child this vaccine in whatever setting is most convenient to you.”
Provincial officials have said shots for kids 5-11 will be available through several locations, including in-school without parents or guardians present, as long as parents or guardians give permission.
Shots will also be available at doctor’s offices, pharmacies, vaccine super sites, and clinics on First Nations and in urban Indigenous clinics.
Reimer said doses are expected to begin arriving at participating medical clinics and pharmacies between Thursday and November 29.
Reimer couldn’t say exactly when school-based vaccination clinics will open. She said a few Manitoba schools have declined to take part in the program.
Health officials saw more appointments for kids than expected from the Southern Health region — where overall vaccine uptake has been low — Reimer said.
She said more appointments will be added to the region as a result.
This morning’s rush of appointments means the Winnipeg vaccination site at RBC Convention Centre will no longer be accepting walk-in appointments as of Thursday, she added.
Appointments can still be booked for the centre by calling 1-844-626-8222 or though the province’s website.
There are roughly 125,000 kids between the age of 5-11 in Manitoba, the province has said. The province says children must be five years old at the time their appointment is booked.
Vaccination plans for First Nations
The group overseeing vaccine rollout for Manitoba First Nations says shipments of the pediatric vaccine will go out later this week for about 15,000 eligible children who live on-reserve.
The Manitoba First Nations pandemic response team says, depending on the size of communities, they may host vaccine clinics at local health centres, in schools or at community centres.
Dr. Marcia Anderson, who is the medical lead for the team, says children up to nine years old have had the most active COVID-19 cases among First Nations, and children between the ages of 10 and 19 are the second most active group.
“So really these vaccines can’t come soon enough. It’s another layer of protection that’s now available for the five to 11-year-olds,” Anderson said during a livestreamed news conference Monday.
“We can have a safe holiday season if we are getting vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
First Nations people are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 due to overcrowded homes and other environmental factors such as poor ventilation in schools.
While the group has seen less severe effects in First Nations children, it says there have been more hospitalizations due to the virus in the fourth wave than in previous waves.
“The benefits of this vaccine are really important, not just in preventing kids from severe outcomes, but in breaking up those chains of transmission that we see in communities that lead to large outbreaks that lead to multiple people or everybody in a household getting COVID-19,” said Anderson.
She added that outbreaks in communities are affecting children’s learning experiences, as some schools have shut down or moved to remote learning due to high case counts.
The team said it hopes to get 90 per cent of children vaccinated with a first dose before the winter school break.
Multiple bookings easier by phone, officials say
Health officials recommend parents looking to book vaccine appointments for two or more children should book by phone, as it’s faster when making multiple appointments.
The vaccine will require two doses of 10 micrograms each for kids aged five to 11 — one-third of the dose for adults.
Health Canada approved last week the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11, and Canada received its first shipment of pediatric doses on the weekend.
The federal government has said all of the 2.9 million doses ordered — enough to provide first doses to all eligible children in the country — will be received by the end of the week.
The Public Health Agency of Canada said earlier this month that children under 12 account for the highest rate of new COVID-19 infections.
Manitoba officials have said the province has seen 6,091 cases in kids aged 5-11, since March 2020. Of those cases 27 were hospitalized, seven ended up in ICU, and one child died.
So far this year at least 13 school outbreaks have resulted in classes being moved to remote learning across Manitoba, according to provincial data.
Pfizer submitted its trial data to Health Canada on Oct. 1 for evaluation, and the full submission for approval on Oct. 18.
The drug manufacturer’s clinical trial data showed that the vaccine had 91 per cent efficacy against COVID-19 in this age group.
–With files from Brittany Hobson at The Canadian Press
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out. In situations where you can’t keep a safe distance from others, public health officials recommend the use of a non-medical face mask or covering to prevent spreading the respiratory droplets that can carry the virus. In some provinces and municipalities across the country, masks or face coverings are now mandatory in indoor public spaces.
For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, visit our coronavirus page.