1st COVID-19 dose could be available to children by Friday, OPH says
Health unit expanding clinics, including after-hours locations at schools
The first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine for children under the age of 12 could be going into little arms by the end of the week, according to Ottawa's medical officer of health.
Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech shots for kids between the ages of five and 11 late last week and the first doses arrived in the country Sunday evening.
Dr. Vera Etches said she is hopeful parents can start booking appointments Tuesday, but that it depends how quickly both the federal and provincial government can distribute the doses to the local health units.
"The province will confirm when those booking sessions will open — it'll be early in the week, I'm sure, because we're all getting ready to make sure we can deliver vaccines by Friday," Etches told CBC.
On Monday morning, the province confirmed these appointments will open on Tuesday at 8 a.m. ET.
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) is currently running four community clinics where eligible people can book appointments for their first, second or third dose. The health unit plans to add three more clinics to the list to help accommodate the 77,000 children across the city who will be eligible to receive their first dose.
Another 73 after-hours pop-up clinics will take place at schools across the city, accepting appointments or walk-ins, along with 10 vaccine hubs that won't require an appointment.
Pharmacies, doctor's offices offering vaccine
As with the adult vaccines, the pediatric equivalent will be offered through some doctor's offices and pharmacies.Etches anticipates that Ottawa pharmacies could vaccinate up to one-fifth of the under 12 age group.
The Ontario Pharmacists Association says members are ready to do their part to help get children vaccinated.
"We've been sitting on this, waiting for it forever. We've already geared up with third doses, we're doing flu shots, so this is just another tier," said Tim Brady, the association's chair.
But Brady said it's more likely that pharmacies won't start giving out doses until Saturday, with the bulk of appointments starting next week.
'It makes sense for parents to have questions'
Etches said she expects some parents and children may be hesitant about getting the vaccine, and OPH has been using parents' concerns to inform the information it posts on its website.
"I think it makes sense for parents to have questions and to get information to answer those questions," she said.
But Etches said the pediatric vaccine can go a long way to protecting some of the city's youngest population.
She points to the fact that, as of Sunday, there were no outbreaks at any of the city's high schools, but 16 in elementary schools.
"The reason to give the vaccine, first and foremost, to children is to protect children," she said.
Brady said pharmacists also anticipate parents and children to have questions about the vaccine, which is why pharmacies across the province will be allotting extra time for children's appointments.