Manitoba

Manitoba sticks with 8-week interval between COVID-19 shots for kids 5-11

Manitoba is continuing to recommend that children age five to 11 wait eight weeks between their first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, following the advice of experts.

National and provincial vaccine advisory committees also recommend 8-week wait

A five-year-old gets her first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Manitobans age five to 11 are advised to wait eight weeks between doses. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba is continuing to recommend that children age five to 11 wait eight weeks between their first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, following the advice of experts.

When vaccinations for that age group started in November, public health officials said with the exception of kids living on First Nations, most children should wait two months between doses for maximum immunity.

Then the highly contagious Omicron variant ripped through the province, sending case counts soaring and leaving parents wondering if their kids should get second doses sooner.

Last week, Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force, said the province would wait to hear from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, as well as the Manitoba Pediatric Vaccine Advisory Committee.

On Wednesday, the province said in a news release that both organizations continue to advise an eight-week wait between doses.

Reimer acknowledged parents might be concerned about waiting two months between doses, especially as all kindergarten to Grade 12 students are set to go back to in-person classes on Monday, even as COVID-19-related hospitalizations climb.

"Children with one dose are not without protection. A recent vaccine dose, even if it's your first one, will still trigger an immune response," she said during Wednesday afternoon's COVID-19 update.

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead for the Manitoba vaccine implementation task force, says one dose is still very helpful in protecting children against severe outcomes of COVID-19. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Reimer says people with one dose are three times less likely to be hospitalized or end up in intensive care units than their counterparts who are unvaccinated.

Research has found children are less prone to serious outcomes of COVID-19 than adults, she said, so she believes one dose will prevent the majority of severe illnesses in children.

The fact children have recently been immunized also helps, she says.

"We know that protection is greatest two weeks to about two months after receiving a dose, which is the timeline our kids are facing right now," she said.

WATCH | Dr. Joss Reimer on decision to stick with 8-week interval:

Why Manitoba recommends 8 weeks between COVID-19 vaccine doses for kids 5-11

4 months ago
Duration 2:07
Even in the midst of Omicron, Dr. Joss Reimer recommends eight weeks between doses for kids. Here's why.

Provincial clinics, doctor's offices, pharmacies, community clinics and public health will continue to recommend this time frame.

However, in some circumstances it may be possible to shorten the time between first and second doses for this age group to as little as 21 days.

Parents can discuss concerns with their family doctor or pediatrician to determine next steps for those who want an early second dose.

Vaccines for kids under 5 unlikely until later this year: Reimer

Part of the reason NACI and the pediatric vaccine advisory committee stuck with the eight-week recommendation between doses is because it's not known how long Omicron will be the dominant variant in the province, Reimer said.

"We don't know when, if, or what kind of variant might circulate in our communities in the future," she said.

"While there's no question that we want children protected against Omicron, we're also trying to think about how to give them the best possible protection in the months to come."

Reimer also said Wednesday that children under five will likely not become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine until well into 2022.

Pfizer-BioNTech found that children in that age group didn't have as strong an immune response to two doses of its vaccine as those five and older did.

The company is amending its clinical trial to add a third dose, while Moderna is also working on a vaccine for children under six. No results have been reported yet, Reimer said.

As of Wednesday, just over half of all Manitoba children in the five to 11 age group had their first vaccine dose, for a total of 63,247.

Reimer says vaccine clinics will pop up in schools as soon as children are back to in-person learning.

She hopes more parents will sign their kids up for their first dose to ensure they're protected.

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