N.L. to start vaccinating children for COVID-19 on Saturday
Health Canada has approved Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine for kids age 5 to 11
Children ages five to 11 in Newfoundland and Labrador can receive the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine at mass vaccination clinics beginning Saturday, and appointments can be booked now.
"Barring any new and unexpected developments, this is the last major hurdle we need to get through in the COVID-19 marathon," said Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, the province's chief medical officer of health, at a media conference Tuesday afternoon.
The news comes after Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for kids age five to 11 on Friday.
Fitzgerald said Pfizer's clinical trials have shown the vaccine to be 90.7 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 infection in children five to 11, and no serious side effects have been identified.
Health Minister John Haggie said the first shipment of the pediatric vaccine is expected to arrive within the next 48 hours, and by Friday the province should have enough to vaccinate all eligible children in N.L.
The vaccine will be available for children through schools and community clinics, and parents can choose their preferred option.
Fitzgerald said there are about 35,000 children in the province eligible for the vaccine.
"I strongly encourage parents and guardians of children in this age category to make the choice for your child to be vaccinated," she said.
Like the adult version of the vaccine, the pediatric version will be administered in two doses.
Haggie said parents should start getting notifications about the availability of the vaccine in the next day, with other reminders to follow.
"This is the final brick in the wall," Haggie said.
Watch the full Nov. 23 update:
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended that children do not receive the COVID-19 vaccine within two weeks of receiving another vaccine, Haggie said.
He said the vaccines will be rolled out through the regional health authorities, the school district and the Department of Education. The regional health authorities will make announcements about vaccinations within schools on their websites, he said.
Children can be vaccinated through a community clinic beginning Saturday or through school beginning next week, and parents can choose whichever option is most convenient, said Haggie. Parents and guardians will need to sign a consent form before their child can be vaccinated in schools.
"There's choice here," he said.
Haggie noted that parents should make sure to select the option for children ages five to 11 if they are booking an appointment through a community vaccination clinic.
Safe and effective, say officials
No children have been hospitalized due to COVID-19 in Newfoundland and Labrador, but Fitzgerald pointed to instances across the country where children have entered the ICU due to COVID-19. She said the vaccine will help alleviate the more severe impact of the delta variant.
"We always say delta finds the unvaccinated," she said.
Fitzgerald said the vaccine will help achieve a sense of normalcy for children and allow them to socialize safely.
"While kids are not as severely affected by COVID-19, they have been more severely affected by the pandemic itself," she said.
She noted that vaccinating children will help prevent the disease from spreading to adults, and provide a greater portion of the province's population with immunity.
Modelling suggests that 90 per cent of the total population of Newfoundland and Labrador must be vaccinated in order to safely lift all public health restrictions, said Fitzgerald.
Dr. Natalie Bridger, a pediatric infectious disease physician, noted the effectiveness of other vaccines in children.
"In Newfoundland and Labrador we no longer have to worry about our children becoming paralyzed by polio. We almost never see cases of measles. We don't see babies being born blind from congenital rubella anymore. This is all because of vaccines."
She acknowledged that some parents may have reservations about vaccines, but said she is confident in the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in children.