Saskatchewan·Analysis

Data on COVID-19 cases among Sask. children should send message about need for vaccination: expert

"I would say that it's probably a message to individuals that have children, and who are not vaccinated and who are eligible for vaccination, that they should go out and get vaccinated," said microbiologist Joseph Blondeau.

A 5th of the cases reported on Tuesday and Wednesday were children 0 to 11 years old

Saskatchewan has finally released data on COVID-19 cases among children under the age of 12. (CBC / Radio-Canada)

Saskatchewan has begun publishing data on the COVID-19 cases among those too young to get vaccinated, after refusing to do so as recently as last week.

It's only a snapshot, showing the numbers for Tuesday and Wednesday this week, but does include eye-opening figures. 

A fifth of the new cases (205 of 981) reported on Tuesday and Wednesday were among children 0 to 11.  

At least one expert is happy to see the data being released. Joseph Blondeau is a clinical biologist at the University of Saskatchewan. 

"I think that we have to have transparency in terms of what's happening in in our different age populations within the province so that we can understand where these infections are coming from," he said. 

The data also helps scientists and researchers understand what type of role COVID-19-positive individuals are playing in transmitting the virus, Blondeau said. 

It could also allows the province to figure out where it would be best served in targeting vaccination efforts.

Protecting children through vaccination

Blondeau said it's hard to draw conclusions about the state of COVID-19 among those under the age of 12 in the province from such a small window of data. 

However, he said analysis out of the United States has shown that the number of infections in children has climbed over the course of the pandemic. 

"The good side of the equation, at least at this point in time, is that children still account for a very, very low percentage of individuals that are hospitalized with COVID, and even fewer still die from COVID as compared, say, to the adult population," he said. 

Signs for COVID-19 immunization clinics lie unused on the ground at Evraz Place in Regina on Sept. 9, 2021. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

In general, youth usually have a more mild reaction to COVID-19, he said, but that doesn't mean Saskatchewan residents shouldn't be concerned.

Children who are infected with COVID-19 are still able to transmit it.

"I would say that is that it's probably a message to individuals that have children, and who are not vaccinated and who are eligible for vaccination, that they should go out and get vaccinated," Blondeau said.  

Province slow to share data

CBC News and other media organizations repeatedly asked the province for COVID-19 data on children aged 0 to 11, but had multiple requests rejected by the Ministry of Health.

On Sept. 9, in response to questions about the data being made available, a spokesperson for the health ministry said case data was based on existing age groups that are reported nationally.

"Under 12 are in the 0-19 age group," the spokesperson said. 

It's not clear what prompted the change from the health ministry. However, Saskatchewan Health Authority chief medical health officer Dr. Saqib Shahab had struck a different tone than the health ministry on Friday. 

"I think data can be made from 0 to 11, so that data is either available or can be made available," he said. 

The health ministry did not immediately respond to a request highlighting Shahab's answer in an email on Tuesday morning. 

Hours later the data was uploaded online.

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