Manitoba

Parents can book COVID-19 shots for kids 5-11: What you need to know

Here's a look at what we know so far about how Manitoba's vaccine rollout will work for some of the province's youngest residents.

18,000 appointments booked for kids now eligible for jab

A young patient receives the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Manitoba's first immunization appointments for kids age five to 11 are available as early as Thursday. (Lisa Leutner/The Associated Press)

Parents can now start booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments for thousands of kids in Manitoba, after the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was approved for children age five to 11 on Friday.

By 5 p.m. Monday, 18,000 appointments had been booked at provincial or regional-run vaccine clinics, the province said.

The first slots are available on Thursday, the province said.

But parents of five- to 11-year-olds might still have some questions about how to book an appointment for a vaccine, where their children will be able to get them and why they need to get immunized in the first place.

Here's a look at what we know so far about how Manitoba's vaccine rollout will work for some of its youngest residents — and why health officials say it's important to make sure your child gets immunized, even if you don't think they're at high risk of getting seriously ill.

What's the status of vaccine approval for younger kids?

Health Canada gave its stamp of approval to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children age five to 11 Friday morning. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is recommending the two doses required for full immunization be given at least eight weeks apart.

On Sunday, the first pediatric doses arrived in the country, and 2.9 million more are expected by the end of the week.

When will it be available to kids in Manitoba?

Manitoba gets its shipments of vaccine doses on Tuesday, but it will take time to get them out to all of the vaccine clinics, pharmacies and other sites where they'll be administered, provincial officials said.

The first appointments available were on Thursday.

As with the province's previous vaccination rollout for those age 12-17, Manitoba will open eligibility for the shots to all kids in the five to 11 range at the same time.

That's because the province has enough supplies like syringes and expects to get enough doses to accommodate everyone who wants to get vaccinated.

How can I make an appointment?

Parents of kids age five to 11 could start booking vaccine appointments for them on Monday at 6 a.m. 

Those slots can be booked either online or by phone at 1-844-626-8222.

Because there is a separate booking option for kids in that age group, any appointments made for them before the province's call centre opened on Monday morning wasn't valid. Anyone who shows up to get their kid vaccinated at an appointment pre-booked through the regular system will be turned away, the province said.

Parents and caregivers who need to book more than one appointment for their kids can still book online if they want to, but calling the phone line is recommended for them, since it's the best way to get multiple appointments at the same time and as close together as possible.

Where can my kid get the vaccine?

For the most part, your kid will be able to go anywhere you could go to get a vaccine in Manitoba before.

That means pediatric doses will go to First Nations communities, Manitoba's five urban Indigenous clinics and all the province's regional vaccine clinics — places that previously operated as supersites.

Settings like hospitals will also get doses, as will doctor's offices and pharmacies that request the vaccines.

It's not currently possible to book appointments at doctor's offices and pharmacies, though. The province plans to update the vaccine finder when it's possible to book appointments there.

Reimer said the province expects pharmacies and doctor's offices will start receiving shipments of the vaccine for kids as early as Thursday, and that all locations that requested doses will have them by Monday. 

A nurse wearing bunny ears gives a six-year-old patient a first shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Kids in Manitoba will have plenty of options for where to get their immunizations. (Ted S. Warren/The Associated Press)

And the province will once again roll out vaccines for kids in schools, with clinics scheduled both during school hours and later in the evening. Those after-school clinics will also be open to community members, which means your whole family can go together.

The province also plans to once again offer pop-up community clinics and walk-in vaccinations at some locations. 

You'll still be able to use Manitoba's online vaccine finder map to figure out the best place to get your kids immunized.

Is it the same as the vaccine for adults and older kids?

The vaccine for five- to 11-year-olds has the same formula and works the same way as the one for people 12 and up, and kids will still need two doses to be considered fully vaccinated. 

But the dose they'll get is only one-third the size of the regular one — 10 micrograms instead of 30. 

That's a common practice in vaccines for younger children, said Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force.

The vials for the kid-size vaccine will also have a different label and a different colour of cap than the adult version — orange instead of purple — so immunizers can easily tell the difference between them, Pfizer said.

A vial of the new children's dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine sits in the foreground as children play in a hospital room waiting to get their shots. The vials of the kid-size vaccines will have orange lids instead of the purple ones on the regular vaccine. (Joseph Prezioso/AFP/Getty Images)

The vaccination process for kids in Manitoba might look a little different, too.

Immunizers are getting extra training on how to treat children coming for their shots — and the province has made new kid-friendly stickers to give out after.

Most children will wait eight weeks after their first dose to get their second.

For kids who are about to turn 12, Reimer said they should get whatever dose is available to them, as it won't make a significant difference. 

"There's no magic thing that happens when a kid turns 12 that suddenly, they need a bigger boost to their immune system in order to get a proper response," she said. 

If they turn 12 by the time they are eligible for a second dose, they can get the larger dose for their second shot, she said. 

Children living on reserve will be able to get a second dose faster because they are more at risk of testing positive, having school interrupted and developing severe symptoms, Reimer said.

Is the vaccine safe for kids?

The approval of the COVID-19 vaccine for kids age five to 11 comes after a "rigorous" review of Pfizer's trial data by Health Canada, Reimer said.

"No steps are skipped in this process," she said at a Wednesday news conference.

"What does happen is that Health Canada is reviewing the data in real time, instead of waiting for all of the findings to be submitted at the end, and this helps their review to occur a lot faster when the final submission occurs."

The trial was also beefed up this summer, after U.S. regulators asked the vaccine maker to expand the number of people included.

That request was to make sure the trial would detect any potential — but rare — side-effects, like myocarditis or pericarditis, which involve swelling in or around the heart.

WATCH | Dr. Joss Reimer answers common questions about kids and vaccines:

Dr. Joss Reimer answers parents’ questions about COVID-19 vaccines for kids

6 months ago
Duration 1:55
Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force, answers some of the most common questions parents have about COVID-19 vaccines for their kids.

So far, no cases of those conditions have come up in young kids involved in the vaccine trial.

"This might be due to the fact that this vaccine is a lower dose, or perhaps it's due to something like different hormone levels that occur in younger children," Reimer said.

"But regardless of the reason, we will be watching very carefully and I will update Manitobans if we see cases in this age group."

Kids with food or environmental allergies do not have to take any special precautions when getting the vaccine, Reimer said. 

NACI recommends kids get their COVID-19 vaccine two weeks before or after any other vaccines to better monitor for any side-effects.

The province says its recommendations are the same, but Manitoba kids who have had a different vaccine within two weeks of their COVID-19 shot won't be turned away.

Why do kids need to get vaccinated?

In Manitoba, COVID-19 is now spreading most rapidly among the province's youngest age groups.

People under 18 make up almost one-third of new cases, while those age five to 11 make up about 16 per cent, Chief Provincial Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin told host Marcy Markusa in an interview with CBC's Information Radio Thursday.

There are about 125,000 kids age five to 11 in Manitoba, meaning they now make up the province's largest unvaccinated cohort.

"Vaccination of that age group can't come soon enough," Roussin said. "That's going to be just another tool we have in this pandemic."

Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba's chief public health officer, says kids age five to 11 now make up about 16 per cent of the province's new COVID-19 cases. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

While most kids who get COVID-19 have mild symptoms at most, some have ended up in the hospital, Reimer said.

Vaccination can help prevent that.

Pfizer said the clinical trial for its kid-size shot showed it induced a robust immune response in young kids. U.S. health regulators later agreed, saying the vaccine was safe and appeared highly effective at preventing symptomatic infections.

Even if your child isn't at high risk of getting really sick, getting them vaccinated will still lower the chance they'll catch and spread COVID-19 to someone else.

WATCH | Dr. Joss Reimer addresses common concerns about vaccines:

Dr. Joss Reimer busts myths around COVID-19 vaccines for kids

6 months ago
Duration 1:53
Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba's vaccine implementation task force, addresses some of the most common concerns parents have about vaccinating their kids against COVID-19.

Lowering the spread of the illness in the community will help ensure more shutdowns aren't needed — and speed up a return to normal.

"Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic," Premier Heather Stefanson said Wednesday.

"They are how we keep our schools, our businesses and places of worship open. And most importantly, they help keep our hospitals and communities safe."

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