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COVID-19: N.B. lagging behind on vaccinating kids amid uneven rollout

Click to play video: 'COVID-19 vaccination rates among children differ among Atlantic Canadian provinces' COVID-19 vaccination rates among children differ among Atlantic Canadian provinces
WATCH: Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization made recommendations this week about COVID-19 boosters for kids. But as Travis Fortnum reports, just getting children to sign up for their first doses has been an uneven effort across the region – Jan 26, 2022

Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended booster doses of COVID-19 vaccines for immunocompromised kids – but with first doses only approved for the five-to-11 age group late last year and a recommended eight weeks between doses, booster rollout is still a while off.

In the Maritimes, the rollout of the even first and second doses of pediatric vaccine has been an uneven effort.

New Brunswick opened eligibility to the five-to-11 age group on Nov. 23 of last year, doling out 30,000 first doses to kids in the nine weeks since for a 55.3 per cent first dose rate within the cohort.

Read more: Give immunocompromised kids 3 Pfizer COVID-19 shots for best protection: NACI

Across the Confederation Bridge, P.E.I. opened eligibility three days later and has already given first doses to 64 per cent of five to 11-year-old Islanders.

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Neighbouring Nova Scotia hit 66 per cent Wednesday and it opened eligibility to the age group on Dec. 2, more than a week after New Brunswick.

All three have been left in the dust by Newfoundland and Labrador, where 77.65 per cent of kids have had their first dose. That province opened up appointments to the age group the same day as P.E.I.

St. John’s-based epidemiologist Susanne Gulliver says accessibility has been key in her home province’s rollout.

Read more: N.L. schools to reopen Tuesday, officials report two more COVID-19 deaths

“We offered first doses in schools for these kids, so it was easy for parents,” she says. “You didn’t have to take time off work, you didn’t have to try and get an appointment.

That province leads the country in the category.

New Brunswick doesn’t make the top five but has been pushing to get its numbers up this week.

When asked Wednesday if the province might alter its strategy to better target the younger groups, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard said an expected COVID-19 briefing later in the week would hold the answers.

“There’ll be more speaking to it later this week,” she said.

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Shephard said she expects that same news conference will address NACI’s latest recommendation.

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