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Parents, experts laud COVID booster approval for kids 5-11: ‘Just in time’

Click to play video: 'Canada approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster for children 5 to 11 years old: Tam'
Canada approves Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster for children 5 to 11 years old: Tam
Canada's chief public health officer Dr. Theresa Tam announced on Friday that Health Canada had approved the use of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine as a booster for children aged five to 11. She said the National Advisory Committee for Immunization (NACI) also issued guidance for its use in Canada – Aug 19, 2022

Kimiko Shibata, a parent from Kitchener, ON, is “extremely relieved” that Health Canada has approved the first COVID-19 booster vaccine for children aged five-11 years across the country.

Her eight-year-old is preparing to return to the classroom in September and Shibata wants her to be as protected as possible.

Read more: Health Canada approves 1st COVID-19 booster for kids 5-11

“This is a huge celebration,” Shibata told Global News. “We need as many layers as possible to protect kids in school.”

On Friday, Health Canada greenlit Pfizer’s COVID-19 booster shots for the age group.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) also strongly recommended a third dose be offered to children who have underlying medical conditions, including those who are immunocompromised, according to new guidance released on Friday.

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A first booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty (10mcg) COVID-19 may be offered to all other children at least six months after their previous jab, NACI said.

In the context of increased COVID-19 activity, a shorter interval of at least three months may be warranted, however, a stronger immune response may occur in a longer interval, NACI said.

Click to play video: 'People should look ‘at own set of circumstances’ when deciding to wait for possible bivalent COVID-19 vaccine: Tam'
People should look ‘at own set of circumstances’ when deciding to wait for possible bivalent COVID-19 vaccine: Tam

“This booster dose provides a great option to restore protection for this age group, especially for those who are at high risk of severe illness,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, during a virtual health update on Friday.

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Shibata says she recognizes the hard work public health units have been putting in throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and hopes to get her child get boosted before she heads back to school.

“I don’t expect by tomorrow morning there’s going to be a vaccination clinic open but I am hopeful that given the time we have before school officially starts that we could at least start to get some doses in arms,” she said.

Read more: Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine coverage flatlining as fall nears: ‘The stakes are high’

“Our hospitals are already in crisis and our region is already bracing for this fall wave of COVID, as well as a cold and flu season. It’s so important we do everything we can to stop the spread of illness.”

Following news of the approval, provinces across the country will be examining their vaccine programs to make booster doses available to children, according to Karen Hill, spokesperson for Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health.

“Once Saskatchewan’s provincial vaccination teams have assessed our supply and logistics of delivery, there will be a public announcement on availability of third does for children five to 11,” Hill told Global News.

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UBC researchers find ‘weak spot’ across COVID-19 variants

Ontario’s Ministry of Health is also reviewing NACI’s most recent guidance and will provide details for booster shots for this age group, according to Bill Campbell, a spokesperson for the ministry.

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In Canada, less than 50 per cent of children aged five to 11 are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 with two doses.

Canadians doctors on social media have whole-heartedly lauded the move by Health Canada.

Read more: COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in Canada stable, but higher than past summers

“Just in time for the start of the new school year,” geneticist and bioethicist, Fatima Tokhmafshan, tweeted.

“Keep your little munchkins safe by ensuring they are up to date with their immunizations,” Tokhmafshan wrote.

“Finally,” said Nili Kaplan-Myrth, an Ontario family doctor, who has already organized a “Jabapalooza” — an outdoor vaccine clinic — for children in Ottawa on August 27.

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“Remember, bivalents vaccines may not be available for the pediatric population in the fall and a surge of COVID is very likely once kids head back to school,” said Sabina Vohra-Miller, founder of Unambiguous Science, referring a jab specially targeting specific mutations of the virus.

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“Since we’re not doing anything thing to mitigate the fall wave in schools or make schools safe – let us at least get our five to 11 [year old] kids boosted,” said Dr. Jillian Horton, a general internist.

— With files from Global News’ Saba Aziz

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