Manitoba prepares to roll out COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5
Province expects limited supply at first, and will decide who gets priority access
The Manitoba government says it's finalizing its recommendations on how it will roll out COVID-19 vaccines for kids aged six months to five years.
The Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for use in little kids and babies in doses one-quarter the size approved for those over the age of 12, Health Canada announced Thursday.
This is the first COVID-19 vaccine approved in Canada for kids under five.
Provincial recommendations will set out who should get access to the vaccine first since it's expected supplies will be limited in the next few weeks, a spokesperson for the Manitoba government said in an email.
Recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization will help inform those decisions, the spokesperson said.
The province added work is already underway to train immunizers and plan for the vaccine distribution. But the spokesperson didn't say when doses are expected to arrive in Manitoba or when the first shots will be administered.
There will be an announcement when the vaccine arrives in the province, with more information available online and the COVID Vaccine Shot Finder updated accordingly, said the emailed response.
'Just waiting on that day': mom
For Winnipeg mom Cara Mason, that day can't come soon enough.
Up until now, Mason's daughter Noni hasn't been eligible for a COVID-19 shot since she doesn't turn five until September.
Mason's partner is immunocompromised due to a genetic blood condition. It's something her daughter may have too.
Mason has been hoping Noni could be immunized before starting kindergarten in the fall to help protect her and her dad.
"We've been very, very isolated," said Mason. "We are still doing masks. She only sees a handful of people, so we've kind of been hoping that kindergarten will be the start of a new normal for her where she'll actually be able to comfortably be around other children."
Mason said she and her partner had inquired about getting Noni vaccinated early. They also considered driving to the U.S., where the vaccine had already been approved.
Now, she's just hoping the province will move quickly to get doses into arms so Noni can get two shots before school starts.
"I'm just waiting on that day that I can start booking appointments," said Mason.
Health Canada said on its website the clinical trial showed the immune response in this age group was comparable to Moderna's vaccine for 18- to 25-year-olds.
Efficacy was assessed while Omicron was the predominant coronavirus variant, according to Health Canada. Preliminary data showed the Moderna vaccine prevented symptomatic COVID-19 at a rate of 50.6 per cent in children between six and 23 months old, and at a rate of 36.8 per cent in children two to five years old.
Health Canada authorized a two-dose primary series with a second shot given four weeks after the first one.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends a period of eight weeks between doses because the longer time period between shots can result in a more robust immune response. NACI also recommends the COVID-19 vaccine be given 14 days before or after a different vaccine.
More pediatric hospitalizations during Omicron
The vaccine is an additional tool in the fight against COVID, Dr. Jesse Papenburg, a pediatric infectious disease specialist based in Montreal, told Andrew Nichols, host of CBC News Network's Rundown.
"Perhaps more importantly it gives families that option now that they can vaccinate children aged six months to five years of age and offer them that protection," said Papenburg.
He said children in general are at much lower risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection than adults, but there were more pediatric hospitalizations during the Omicron wave due to the number of infections among young children.
"So I think there's a burden of disease there that is worth trying to prevent, especially if you consider also there can be some long COVID in young children, and of course the multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, which can be quite severe," he said.
Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada's deputy chief public health officer, said families who have questions about the vaccine should speak with their health provider.
Health Canada said it will continue to monitor data to "ensure that the benefits of the vaccine continue to outweigh any risks, as well as to detect any potential new safety signals in any age group."
With files from Nick Boisvert and The Canadian Press