Manitoba

What Manitobans should know as thousands book COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids

As thousands of Manitobans have booked appointments for children between ages five and 11 to get their first COVID-19 shot, the medical lead of the vaccine implementation task force provided more details on what to expect in the coming days and weeks.

Dr. Reimer says most kids should wait eight weeks between COVID-19 doses, less for children living on reserve

Thousands of vaccine appointments for Manitoba children aged five to 11 were booked on Monday, the province said. (Jonathan Cherry/Reuters)

As thousands of Manitobans have booked appointments for children between ages five and 11 to get their first COVID-19 shot, the medical lead of the vaccine implementation task force provided more details on what to expect in the coming days and weeks.

On Monday, bookings opened for the roughly 125,000 eligible children in this age category with locations all over the province, and more to come later this week.

As of 5 p.m. on Monday, more than 18,000 appointments had been booked.

"That's just wonderful to hear," Dr. Joss Reimer said at an online press conference on Monday.

"More than 10 per cent of this whole population was already booked by the first half day that they were able to book. And that's just the ones who are planning to go to one of the provincial or regional run options."

A patient waits to be called for a COVID-19 vaccination booster shot outside a pharmacy in Denver, Colorado. In Manitoba, parents have to wait a bit longer for pediatric COVID-19 dose appointments in pharmacies and at doctors' offices. (David Zalubowski/The Associated Press)

There are "literally hundreds of options" for Manitobans looking for convenient places for children to be vaccinated, she said, and asked people to visit the Vaccine Finder map for more information.

The province will use existing vaccine infrastructure and are ensuring the smaller pediatric dose gets to more locations.

Roughly 30,000 doses will be shipped to participating medical clinics and pharmacies between Nov. 25 and 29, so bookings at those locations are not available yet.

Parents of children in this age group should time out their other vaccines properly. Reimer says the COVID-19 vaccine should be given two weeks before or after another shot.

Information on second doses

The bulk of children in the age group will be eligible for their second dose about two months after their first.

Children who live in First Nations, however, will see shorter intervals between doses than people who live off reserve, based on a recommendation from the First Nations Pandemic Response Co-ordination Team.

"This is due to an increased risk of exposure to the virus, increased frequency of school disruptions and an increased risk of severe outcomes being experienced by these children," Reimer said.

"This means that a faster immune response may be more beneficial than waiting for the stronger, longer lasting immune response that an eight week interval can bring."

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical officer of health and medical lead for the Manitoba vaccine implementation task force, says children rarely have severe outcomes of COVID-19, but getting vaccinated means they can protect themselves and the people around them. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

The doctor said other groups will be considered for shorter intervals based on consultation with organizations and health authorities.

Why should kids be vaccinated?

There are many important reasons for children to be vaccinated, the doctor said.

Although children rarely have severe outcomes of COVID-19, there have been some cases in Manitoba, Reimer said.

Over the course of the pandemic, 6,000 children in the age group tested positive for the virus and 27 kids between the ages of five and 11 ended up in hospital. Seven had to be sent to the ICU.

"A visit to an ICU is a very traumatic experience for a child and for their families. There's also the potential for long lasting adverse health effects from the virus," she said.

Kids can develop something known as multi-system inflammatory syndrome weeks after an infection, which often requires hospitalization, she said.

They can also spread the virus to vulnerable people.

"Every child is surrounded by a village of people and every village of people needs protection," she said.

Although these children are now eligible for the vaccine, there are no plans at this time for public health orders to include children of this age because they have no say in the matter, Reimer said.

"We really want to think very carefully about this age group in particular because they don't generally have the option to choose to get the vaccine themselves — it's typically a decision that's made for them — so we want to be very cautious."

Reimer is enthusiastic about the fact that so many more people are eligible for the vaccine.

"The higher we get in coverage throughout the different age groups, the less transmission we're going to have ...  So adding these 125,000 people to the eligibility is going to protect all of us."

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