Quebec aims to offer COVID-19 vaccine to teens before end of school year
Province approves Pfizer for teens a day after Health Canada
Quebec has approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for teens and plans to make a first dose available to those between the ages of 12 and 17 before the end of June, offering a sense of hope to many high school students after a long year.
At a news conference Thursday, Health Minister Christian Dubé said it's likely a second dose would be made available in the fall upon the return to class.
The province still hasn't determined whether all the vaccinations will be carried out in schools, he said.
Further details of that plan will be announced next week with Education Minister Jean-François Roberge.
The province has already announced a schedule to make vaccines available to all adults in the coming weeks.
Expanding the vaccination campaign to younger people is viewed by experts as crucial in curbing the spread of the virus.
"It's excellent news," said Dr. Horacio Arruda, the province's public health director. "The more people who get vaccinated, the more we can deconfine."
The go-ahead by Quebec's vaccination committee comes a day after Health Canada approved the use of Pfizer's vaccine on teens between the ages of 12 and 15.
The federal regulator had previously approved the Pfizer vaccine for those 16 and over, but Quebec had only made it available to older teens in hospital or to those with underlying conditions.
The Pfizer vaccine is the first product to be authorized for use in this younger age category.
The three other products authorized for use in Canada — AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna — can be given only to people over the age of 18 for now.
Dreams, big and small
If the vaccination campaign among teens is successful, the next school year could look a little more normal, Arruda said.
He encouraged all teens to get vaccinated, saying it would serve as the "path to liberty."
After more than a year of restrictions, Cassandra Revolorieo, a 13-year-old student at École secondaire Saint-Luc, is among those eager to get a vaccine.
"If there's any chance I could take it to go back to gatherings, then I'll take it," she said.
"I miss going out with my friends and seeing their full range of emotions without a mask on and going out to restaurants. Big things like that."
Zack Evoy, a Grade 8 student at the same school, said it has been a hard year — much of it spent online.
"A lot of students that have anxiety or are nervous to speak, when it's online it's harder to speak to the teacher themselves instead of the whole class," he said.
Now, he said, a world of possibilities is opening up.
"I was supposed to go to a concert this summer so maybe if that's possible I'd like to go."
Timeline moved up
Dubé had, as recently as last week, expressed doubt the province would have enough doses to make vaccines available to teens by the end of June.
On Thursday, he said the arrival of an additional 1 million doses of vaccine made it possible to move up that timeline.
There are roughly 500,000 people between the ages of 12 and 17 in the province, he said.
Dubé said the province will provide more information to parents on the health and safety of the vaccine. Those 14 and over, however, don't require parental permission to take the vaccine.
He also announced that Quebecers will soon have electronic proof of vaccination.
A QR code will be emailed to everyone who has been vaccinated, though Dubé could not say what this scannable code would be used for.
With files from Kwabena Oduro