Ottawa

Consider kids in vaccination plan, CHEO head urges

The president and CEO of eastern Ontario's children's hospital in Ottawa wants the health of young people to be made a priority as officials decide how to distribute COVID-19 vaccines across Canada.

Neither Pfizer-BioNTech nor Moderna vaccine approved for use on children

A child in New York wears a protective mask and gloves in March 2020. Children aren't presently eligible to receive either the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine, with both companies announcing plans to expand trials to kids 12 and over. (John Minchillo/Associated Press)

The president and CEO of eastern Ontario's children's hospital in Ottawa wants the health of young people to be made a priority as officials decide how to distribute COVID-19 vaccines across Canada.

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna have announced plans to expand trials to children 12 and over, but neither vaccine is presently approved for use on kids, who tend to have more resilient immune systems than adults. 

"The fact that there is not yet the kid-safe vaccine, the fact that we don't know when there will be — it should be an area of concern for all of us," Alex Munter told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning on Monday. 

The initial doses are being allocated to front-line workers and other vulnerable adults, but Munter said if the health of the general population relies on herd immunity, children will eventually need to be vaccinated, too.

"If we can't immunize eight million kids and whatever proportion of adults — perhaps a third of adults don't get immunized — then we won't even get half the population covered by this vaccine," said Munter, who isn't a trained medical professional.

Alex Munter is president and CEO of CHEO, eastern Ontario's children's hospital in Ottawa. (Steve Bezanson/Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario/Canadian Press)

Some kids at greater risk

Munter pointed out children with compromised immune systems face greater risks if they contract COVID-19, as do young people with developmental and physical disabilities. 

Even if children can't yet be vaccinated right away, Munter said there are ways to organize the vaccine rollout to keep them safer.

"We need to vaccinate the adults in their lives," he said. "Their parents, their caregivers, those who work with them, teachers, group home staff, social workers." 

Canadians under 16 may have to wait to get any vaccines to protect them against COVID-19 because so few kids have been part of the clinical trials to test the immunizations so far. 11:05

The first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine are scheduled to be administered in Ottawa on Tuesday, with 3,000 doses arriving in the city. 

Munter expects CHEO will be asked immunize its staff shortly.

"It's not a problem we need to solve for tomorrow, but it is a problem we need to start thinking about today," he said.

With files from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning

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