Following Wednesday’s announcement that Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 and up, provinces are now deciding how their vaccine rollouts will reflect this information moving forward.
Although Health Canada has announced their approval based on recent clinical trials, whether or not any children will be receiving the shot anytime soon is up to individual provinces and territories.
Before this announcement, Pfizer was only permitted to be given to those 16 and up in Canada, and the focus of the majority of vaccine rollouts in Canada was on those 18 years and up.
Here is what some provinces and territories have said in response to Health Canada’s announcement.
Shortly after Health Canada’s announcement, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry stated that children ages 12 and up could begin to receive vaccine doses before the end of the school year.
“We know that young people, especially teenagers, have a lower risk in terms of their own health,” she said. “But […] they’re an important group that we do want to get protected as soon as we can.”
They don’t have specifics yet, but vaccines could be delivered through the school system, officials say, the way many other vaccines have been in the past.
The province has entered its Phase 3 as of Wednesday, in which anyone over the age of 12 can make an appointment to receive their first dose of the vaccine.
However, to streamline booking, only those ages 30 and up will be eligible on May 6, and then those ages 12 to 29 can start booking appointments on May 10.
“By this coming Monday, every single Albertan over the age of 12 will be eligible to receive a COVID 19 vaccine,” Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday. “This reflects late-breaking news this morning from Health Canada that the Pfizer vaccine is safe for children of at 12 years of age and older, which is obviously great news.”
Saskatchewan will be releasing more information on how they are responding to Health Canada’s announcement on Thursday, health officials said Wednesday.
But they did say that they “will be heading that direction to move our age for Pfizer vaccinations down to 12 years of age.”
They said that parental permission and whether to deliver vaccines to children through schools or clinics are some of the issues they need to sort out to implement children into the rollout.
The province is set to offer vaccines to children aged 12 and up relatively soon, health officials said Wednesday, with the province aiming to have vaccines delivered to every eligible child who wants one by mid-June.
“We’re looking at the timeline of June 11 to June 15 to have all 12-plus eligible Manitobans vaccinated,” Johanu Botha, co-lead of Manitoba’s Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said Wednesday.
“It’s great news for Manitobans that we have more eligibility now in order to help us achieve herd immunity,” Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of the province’s vaccine effort, said hours after Health Canada’s announcement.
In the same press conference, officials announced that they were expanding the age eligibility for COVID-19 to anyone 45 and older. All adults are expected to become eligible on May 21 — and health officials added that children ages 12 and up may also become eligible on that same day.
While there is no definitive timeline yet for this to be implemented into Ontario’s vaccine rollout, officials say they’re working on it.
Christine Elliott, Ontario’s minister of health, said Wednesday that they’re planning on how to expand the vaccine rollout to include these younger age groups, calling the approval “wonderful news.
“[We’ve] already been in conversations, discussions with the minister of education to make sure that we can start as soon as possible,” she said. “And fortunately with the increased supply of vaccines that we’re receiving, both Moderna and Pfizer, we will reach to start that as soon as possible. So we are actively working through that right now.”
Dr. Jennifer Russell, the province’s chief medical officer of health, said Wednesday that their vaccine task force was keeping up to date with new information such as Health Canada’s approval, but stopped short of providing any details on when children might receive vaccines in New Brunswick.
“We’ll have more announcements on when they will get vaccinated as soon as we have more information,” she said.
NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR
There currently aren’t any plans to adjust the vaccine rollout in response to this news, officials said Wednesday, but they are looking at the new information.
“Our hope is that we won’t see a difference in the timeline, but this is a really important group to get vaccinated,” Dr. Janice Fitzgerald, chief medical officer of health, said.
“As we saw with our last outbreak, kids in this age group can certainly spread this virus.”
She added that “hopefully by very early in the next school year, we can have everybody fully vaccinated in that age group.”
On Wednesday, the government announced that they would be expanding their vaccine program to include Pfizer doses.
Around 1,100 doses of Pfizer arrived on Tuesday, and are slated to be given first to those ages 12 to 17 due to limited supply. Those aged 18 years and older can still receive doses of the Moderna vaccine.
Up to this point, the territory has only received Moderna shipments, but negotiated to exchange further shipments of Moderna for Pfizer “to protect as many residents as possible from the virus,” a news release stated.
Young people in Yellowknife will receive Pfizer first, with more doses slated to arrive in the coming weeks for youth in other communities.