COVID-19 vaccination for kids 5-11 in Manitoba could start as early as next month: Reimer

Manitoba health officials plan to be ready to start vaccinating children age five to 11 against COVID-19 by the end of November, assuming Health Canada approves the vaccine for that age group.

Could begin by end of November if Health Canada approves vaccine for kids under 12: task force lead

Wednesday's update on vaccination in Manitoba comes days after new mandatory vaccination and testing requirements for many workers came into effect. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

Manitoba health officials plan to be ready to start vaccinating children age five to 11 against COVID-19 by the end of November, assuming Health Canada approves the vaccine for that age group.

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province's vaccine implementation task force, said the province doesn't know when Health Canada will make a decision on Pfizer's Monday request for approval of its vaccine for that age group.

Health Canada's approval process is expected to take at least two weeks, possibly longer, she said at a news conference on Wednesday.

The province has no plans to extend vaccination requirements to access certain businesses and services to those children, should they become eligible, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin said at the news conference.

Plans are in development for a school-based vaccine rollout for kids five to 11, Reimer said. The vaccine will also be available through physicians, pharmacies and public health clinics.

The province's pediatric council has been working with the vaccine task force to plan how to best provide information to parents who are deciding whether to vaccinate their children, Reimer said.

"A small proportion of Manitobans continue to have concerns about the vaccine, and we do expect that when it comes to younger children that we'll have more hesitancy than we do for youth, older youth and adults," she said.

"We know many parents will want to be there, along with their kids, so having more flexible options, even in the school-based program, is going to be important."

Although young children generally don't face the same risk of severe COVID-19 outcomes as adults, Reimer said some kids still have to be hospitalized, and some suffer long-term complications.

Vaccination of kids is also part of the province's efforts to protect their mental health by keeping schools and recreational activities open, and to prevent wider community spread, she said.

School vaccination campaign ending

The province will wrap up its school-based vaccination clinics by the end of the month, Reimer said. 

So far, more than 170 clinics have been held in schools, with more than 1,300 doses administered, and 60 per cent of those were first doses.

Once the in-school COVID-19 vaccination campaign wraps up, the province plans to begin offering catch-up vaccination clinics for young people who may have missed their shots during the pandemic.

The province is also ending its mobile clinics in the Winnipeg region at the end of October.

As of Tuesday, 86.3 per cent of eligible Manitobans had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 82.7 per cent had two doses.

On Monday, the province made all First Nations people living on reserve eligible for a third vaccine dose as long as it's been six months since they've received their second.

158 health workers on unpaid leave

New rules that came in Monday require people working in places like hospitals, schools and care homes to either be fully vaccinated or test negative for COVID-19 within the 48 hours before work.

About 158 health-care workers were put on unpaid leave as of Tuesday, after refusing to either show proof of vaccination or get tested, Manitoba Shared Health said.

Workers from the Southern Health region make up more than half of that number, with 83.

About 36,500 of Manitoba's roughly 42,000 direct-care health-care workers had disclosed their vaccination status by noon on Monday, Shared Health said in an email.

"Direct-care" workers who are required to be vaccinated or submit to testing include a wide range of health-care workers, ranging from doctors and nurses to health care aides to cleaning staff, according to provincial health orders.


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