Nova Scotia

Here's what we know about when kids in Nova Scotia can get the COVID-19 vaccine

With federal approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages five to 11, here's a look at Nova Scotia's plan for immunizing children.

Administering doses for N.S. children expected to begin in early December

A syringe is prepared with the Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine in Pennsylvania in September. Children ages 5-11 in Canada are approved for Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. (Matt Rourke/The Associated Press)

With Friday's approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages five to 11, kids in Nova Scotia can expect to start getting shots in arms by early next month.

The province has not unveiled a detailed plan of the vaccine rollout yet, but Dr. Robert Strang, chief medical officer of health, said in a press briefing earlier this month he anticipates doses will begin to be administered in early December.

Nova Scotia Health Minister Michelle Thompson called the approval "great news" in a release on Friday afternoon.

She said the province is waiting for more information about vaccine delivery from the federal government before finalizing a rollout plan.

About 2.9 million doses — enough to provide a first dose to every eligible child in the country — of Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine children will be shipped by the end of the week.

Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine is administered in doses one-third the size of those given to adults and kids 12 and older.

Health Canada authorized for two doses to be given three weeks apart, though the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is recommending at least eight weeks between doses.

Because children under age 12 require a lower dosage, they can't get vaccinated with the Pfizer doses Canada currently has in stock. While it's possible to draw lower doses from those vials, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer, warns it could cause the vaccine in those vials to be less effective.

Vaccines in pharmacies, not schools

Strang has also said Public Health does not have the capacity to offer vaccines to children in schools. But the Nova Scotia Liberal Party is calling on the provincial government to make immunization clinics available for students during school hours, citing convenience for parents.

"If the goal here is to get as many kids vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible, then let's at least offer it in schools too. And families can decide what works best for them," Derek Mombourquette, the Liberal education critic, said in a news release Friday afternoon.

But Strang said last month he'd heard concerns from parents about having in-school vaccine clinics.

"They do not want their their six-, seven-year-old being immunized alone in a school. They want to be there with their child," he said.

Instead, the vaccine will be delivered through pharmacies.

"We've been planning now, for the better part of a month, on the rollout of these clinics," Allison Bodnar, CEO of the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia, said in an interview.

"We'll be ready to go as soon as that vaccine arrives in Nova Scotia."

Bodnar said the children's vaccine clinics will be at the "vast majority" of pharmacies across the province.

The province is planning to offer vaccines to Nova Scotia's 65,000 children in that age group through the online booking system.

A decision has not yet been made on whether vaccinations will be offered to all kids in that age group at once or whether it will be a phased-in approach.

Bodnar is asking parents not to call pharmacies to try to book appointments for their children until the provincial government makes a determination about when and how the program is going to launch.

She's encouraging parents to keep an eye out for resources about how to prepare children for vaccine appointments.

"We need to make this a smooth and effective service, and we want kids to feel comfortable," she said.

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