COVID-19 vaccine booster now available for Sask. kids 5-11, but some parents say it comes too late

Saskatchewan children from five to 11 years old are now eligible to receive their third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine — but with the school year about to start, some parents say the shots should have been made available sooner.

'My girls actually had a chance to go back to school boosted but that chance has now gone': Saskatoon parent

A blond-haired boy wearing a face mask turns his head away from a woman injecting a needle into his upper left arm.
A nine-year-old boy receives a COVID-19 vaccine dose in a 2021 file photo. The Saskatchewan government announced Tuesday that appointments for booster shots for kids age five to 11 would be available as of Wednesday morning. (Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press)

Saskatchewan children from five to 11 years old are now eligible to receive their third dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, as long at least four months has passed since their previous shot — but with the school year about to start, some parents say the shots should have been made available sooner.

"Too little, too late" said Carolyn Brost Strom.

Her eight-year-old daughter was excited to start Grade 3 at her Prince Albert school, but now has a fever, sore throat and fatigue after testing positive for COVID-19.

"It's disappointing to start the school year like this. We got the backpacks and everything done a few weeks ago, but it's all sitting there," Strom said. "She put her head under the pillow and started crying."

The provincial government announced on Tuesday that booster appointments for five- to 11-year-olds would be available as of Wednesday.

Health Canada approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine as a booster dose for kids in that age range on Aug. 19. Strom says if  the province had made the booster doses available then, her daughter might have been in a better situation.

Strom, who has worked as a COVID-19 case investigator, said she's hopeful her daughter will be able to attend school soon, but she's frustrated with the province's now-monthly updates on COVID-19 transmission.

While her family has tried to limit interactions, she said more frequent information would be helpful in decision-making.

"If you get information monthly, how do you make a judgment call? My daughter is unwell, lying in her room.… There's frustration that it hit us after we avoided it for two years."

Saskatoon resident Leah Howie said though she is excited for her kids, age seven and nine, to start the school year on Thursday, she had hoped they'd have the protection of a booster shot.

"I'm very frustrated. It has been eight months since their second dose," said Howie, who is concerned that with increasing transmission and no mandated masking, her daughters may contract COVID-19 again.

"My girls actually had a chance to go back to school boosted but that chance has now gone, and that's disappointing."

She said the lack of communication from the province since the boosters were approved was "needlessly frustrating."

"Why weren't they immediately eligible to receive their vaccines? Had they got it then, my kids would have had a full immune response by now. Moreover, it actually would have been a lot easier for us to schedule an appointment before school started."

A man in a grey suit speaks in front of several news media microphones.
Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab speaks with reporters in Regina on Tuesday afternoon. Shahab says getting a booster shot should be part of back-to-school plans. (Adam Brent/CBC)

Provincial Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab told reporters Tuesday that the delay was due to operational readiness.

"The vaccines were here but we wanted to have all the documentation and processes to be ready. I know some parents were keen to have the booster in before the start of the school," Shahab said.

"I think getting it anytime in September is fine."

Getting a booster shot should be part of back-to-school plans, he said.

"Vaccination rates among adults are better than school-age children. Forty-three per cent of children have received two doses, just over half [have received] the first."

Parents react to booster availability

Some parents and caregivers CBC talked with in Saskatoon on Tuesday said they wished the boosters had been made available earlier.

That includes Maja Montgomery, who said summer was busy, but with booster doses only now becoming available, she has to push her plans to get the shot for her six-year-old son until later.

A woman stands outside near a river with two young children on a sunny day.
Maja Montgomery says vaccination makes her son nervous, and she wants him to get used to school before he gets his booster. (Travis Reddaway/CBC)

"I wish the announcement came earlier. It always just seems to be in the nick of the time," she said. "At this point, many people will rush to get the doses."

Montgomery said vaccination makes her son nervous, so she wants him to have a chance to get used to being at school before she gets him boosted.

Meanwhile, Monica Powers said her family welcomes the news boosters are now available — and her five-year-old granddaughter, Nova, is clearly excited to begin kindergarten Thursday.

"I'll carry my pink bag and will make new friends," Nova said.

Andrea Graw says her daughter participates in a lot of extracurricular activities, so she'd like her to get her booster dose. (Travis Reddaway/CBC)

North Battleford resident Andrea Graw said her 10-year-old daughter is involved in a lot of extracurricular activities, so needs a booster dose.

"But we won't be getting it right away. We won't rush it before school," said Graw.

Dil Basnet, a nanny in Saskatoon, said her 11-year-old daughter is fully vaccinated, but she would have liked to get her boosted before starting Grade 7.

"It's good to be boosted. I want her to be safe," said Basnet.

Dil Basnet says though the availability for a booster dose for kids comes a little late, it is nonetheless important for her kids' safety. (Travis Reddaway/CBC)

Betty Cornelius said she'll consult a doctor before getting a booster dose for her adopted six-year-old son.

"I'm already struggling with school as he has special needs. It's hard as it'll take us two weeks to get to the doctor, so there will be more delay in getting him boosted," she said.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization released recommendations earlier this month saying that five- to 11-year-olds with any underlying medical condition that places them at high risk of severe illness from COVID-19 should get a booster dose. 

A man stands behind a woman, crouching down, and three young girls sitting in lawn chairs. All wear orange shirts reading "Every Child Matters."
Jenn Summers says her eight-year-old twins, who are immunocompromised, will be learning at home for another school year. (Submitted by Jenn Summers)

For Jenn Summers, who lives in the northern Saskatchewan town of Spiritwood, it will be another year of homeschooling for her eight-year-old twins and their older sister.

"We have kept the bubble small. My girls have developmental delays and are immunocompromised, but [with the] lack of vaccine uptick and no masking around us, it's the safest bet," she said.

Summers said though she feels "kept in the dark" without more frequent COVID-19-related information, she is grateful for the booster shots.

"If the kids had got boosters early on, it would've been even better."


Pratyush Dayal covers climate change, immigration and race and gender issues among general news for CBC News in Saskatchewan. He has previously written for the Globe and Mail, the Vancouver Sun, and the Tyee. He holds a master's degree in journalism from UBC and can be reached at