Ottawa Public Health outlines plan to vaccinate kids as young as 5
About 70,000 kids will soon be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Public Health expects
As Pfizer awaits Health Canada's approval of its COVID-19 vaccine for kids five- to 11-years-old, Ottawa Public Health says it will be able to vaccinate all children in that age group within four weeks of being given the green light.
OPH said it anticipates roughly 70,000 children will become eligible for that vaccine within the coming weeks.
During a board meeting Monday evening, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches said there should be enough supply for a "rapid push" to vaccinate that entire age group. She said the goal is to vaccinate 90 per cent of that population.
"The outbreaks that we're detecting are mostly detected in schools," Etches said, specifying that nearly half of the city's current positive cases are school-aged children.
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Parents will be able to book appointments through the provincial booking system. OPH staff said it is working with the Ontario government to make the site more user friendly and to allow families with multiple children to book appointments together.
Vaccine clinics will be available at schools, throughout the community and at pharmacies. The plan is also to operate those clinics on extended hours to accommodate families.
OPH said it has a number of experienced nurses and numbing spray to help children who may be fearful of needles.
Addressing COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy
Any move to mandate COVID-19 vaccines in school would be up to the province, according to Etches, but she said she's optimistic most families will voluntarily get their children vaccinated.
"It is true most children will not experience severe outcomes from COVID 19 infection, but some will and vaccination decreases the risk of severe outcomes," Etches said.
"When children are less likely to transmit COVID-19 because they are immunized, they're helped indirectly by the benefits that come from keeping COVID-19 manageable in the community."
Etches said immunizing kids will help keep schools open by reducing the risk of transmission and by extension, allow parents to continue working and kids to keep participating in extracurriculars.
OPH said it will roll out material in schools and host town halls to answer parents' questions.