Here's what we know about COVID-19 vaccines for kids in Sask.
Saskatchewan is waiting for 110,000 children’s doses of the Pfizer vaccine to arrive in the province following Health Canada’s approval of the shot for kids aged five to 11 on Friday.
In a statement, Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Health said Health Canada’s approval of the shot is welcomed news.
“Clinics will be offered where families with eligible children live, learn and play with blended approach of accessible clinics in locations such as libraries, learning centres, community and sports centres,” the statement read. “The intent is to start administering immunizations in many locations within 24 to 48 hours of delivery from the federal government.”
On Friday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) released guidelines for children’s doses.
The Government of Saskatchewan has not announced when it expects doses to arrive.
“We have long anticipated the arrival of these vaccines, so the [Saskatchewan Health Authority] has worked hard with our partners in order to ensure that as soon as we have the vaccines arrive in this province, that we’re able to get them deployed to clinics and open up access to parents to book their kids in as quickly as possible,” Derek Miller, the executive director of infrastructure management with the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said during Thursday’s COVID-19 technical briefing.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Alexander Wong said the sooner first doses can get into kids’ arms, the better. He expects the impact on new case rates and transmission to be significant.
“Kids are obviously playing a significant role in terms of both acquiring as well as transmitting COVID-19 infection. They’re obviously at higher risk of acquiring infection just because they haven’t had the opportunity yet to be vaccinated,” he said. “As we get first doses into arms it’s going to make a huge difference in terms of our overall societal herd immunity.”
Wong said there are still unknowns about the vaccine in this age group, but health officials will be monitoring any side effects closely in the coming weeks.
“All the evidence that we have thus far to date would suggest that the likelihood or incidents rate of heart inflammation events, like myocarditis, are going to be exceedingly low – lower in this age bracket than in kids between 16-19,” he said. “We realize there’s going to be a proportion of parents and kids who are going to line up and get this ASAP. Then there is going to be a group of individuals that is waiting to see and there’s going to be some hesitant individuals.”
He said at this point, it’s important not to allow hesitancy to impact children.
“We don’t want to talk about excluding kids and so forth from school and activities,” he said. “As the data emerges, I think we’ll have more clarity around safety and risk benefit.”
NACI is recommending at least eight weeks between first and second doses for the five to 11 age bracket. Wong said final say in dose intervals will come down to the province, but he said parents should not be concerned if their children cannot be double vaccinated before the holiday season.
“We know that young kids, kids between five and 11, have very active and robust immune systems and that they respond, again, in very robust ways when they’re given a dose of vaccine for example,” Wong said. “One dose of vaccine is probably, within a couple of weeks time, going to provide, realistically speaking, 80-90 per cent protection against symptomatic infection.”
Education Minister Dustin Duncan said the province is looking at making vaccines available at schools or near them so that it is easily accessible.
“With that age group, we’d want a parent to be present and so, looking at perhaps making it available after school hours so that a parent can be present which might be a little bit easier to accommodate for parents that would be working during the day,” Duncan said earlier this week.
The Regina Public School Division and Regina Catholic School Divisions both said they continue to work with the Saskatchewan Health Authority as plans develop.
“We will share communication from the SHA with our school communities and provide space when needed for vaccination clinics. We do not do any of the vaccinations ourselves,” the Regina Catholic School Division said in a statement.
The Ministry of Health said additional program delivery details will be announced on Monday to ensure families have all information required to plan to have their children vaccinated.