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A look at when Canada could start administering COVID-19 vaccines to teens, children – MSN Canada

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As vaccines to protect against the novel coronavirus continue to be administered across the country, one question remains unanswered — when will shots be approved for children and when will kids be vaccinated?






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BARI, ITALY – MARCH 09: Syringes with the vaccine inside ready to be used in vaccination on March 09, 2021 in Bari, Italy. During the anti covid vaccination campaign, the Puglia region has implemented a program to vaccinate teachers and the elderly, in particular, using the Astrazeneca vaccine for school operators and the Pfizer vaccine for over 80’s. (Photo by Donato Fasano/Getty Images)

Canadian kids under 16 likely won’t get vaccinated until 2022

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On Sunday U.S. Dr. Anthony Fauci said high school students in America will “very likely be able to be vaccinated by the fall term.”

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Read more: Front-line health workers in Canada look back on ‘rollercoaster’ year of COVID-19

He said elementary school children in the U.S. would likely be ready to receive vaccinations by the first quarter of 2022 once studies on the safety of the vaccine are completed.

However, in Canada, no vaccines have been approved for use in children younger than 16 years of age.

Health Canada says it is waiting on data from the vaccine manufacturers before it approves any shot for use in children.

Here’s a closer look at what’s going on in Canada.

Vaccines approved

To date, Health Canada has approved four vaccines for use in Canada.

In December, the regulatory body approved two mRNA vaccines — one from Pfizer-BioNTech, the other from Moderna.

Last month, a shot from AstraZeneca was given the green light, and in early March, a shot from Johnson & Johnson was given the OK for use in Canada.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can be used in anyone 16 and older, Health Canada says, while the other three shots have been approved for adults 18 and up.

Video: Governments urge caution during spring break travel

By Saturday morning, 2,830,586 doses of the approved COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Canada.

That means approximately 3.79 per cent of the country’s population is now vaccinated against the virus.

Trials underway

Speaking to reporters earlier this month after the approval of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Health Canada’s chief medical advisor Dr. Supriya Sharma said a clinical trial to test the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in children aged 12 to 17 had been authorized by the agency.

“This will be important research to support vaccine availability for all Canadians of all ages,” she said.

Sharma said the clinical trial from Johnson & Johnson’s subsidiary, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, is the first trial Health Canada has authorized in younger adults that includes Canadian sites. It has not yet begun recruiting patients.

The other vaccine manufacturers are either looking into beginning clinical trials in children or have already started, Sharma confirmed.

“So the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines, with respect to their clinical trials in younger-age adults — and that’s 12 to 15 for Pfizer, 12 to 17 for Moderna — have clinical trials that are ongoing, that actually finished recruiting patients into the clinical trials,” she continued. “So they’re the ones that are most far — they’re the furthest advanced in that.”

Sharma said AstraZeneca has also started a clinical trial to test its vaccine in younger age groups.

However, she said she expects Health Canada will receive data from Pfizer and Moderna first “because their trials in children are most advanced.”

Read more: One year into COVID-19, a look at when and where the next pandemic could emerge

In an email to Global News, Christina Antoniou, director of corporate affairs at Pfizer Canada, said the vaccine is being studied in children aged 12-15, “and the study is ongoing.”

She said as the results of the trial become available “we will share them with Health Canada.”

“At this point, I cannot confirm when that will be,” she wrote.

However, on Thursday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said he expects younger teens to be eligible for the vaccine in the fall, and elementary school students by the end of the year.

Bourla said the company plans to submit the data for children between the ages of 12 and 16 very soon.

He added that data for children aged five to 11 can be expected year-end.

Global News also reached out to Moderna to determine when exactly the data from its trial would be shared with Health Canada, but did not hear back by publication.

Timeline?

Asked by reporters whether Health Canada could approve a vaccine for use in children before school begins in the fall of 2021, Sharma said that timeline “may be a bit optimistic.”

Montreal pediatric specialist answers questions about the coronavirus and kids

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“So the trials in children tend to be a bit slower to get up and running in terms of recruiting individuals,” she said. “And then, of course, we have to conduct the trials and then take that information and assess that.”

She said it’s “not inconceivable that we might have some data in the summer.”

“And potentially by the end of this calendar year, we might have some indications in children, but … that’s still pretty optimistic.”

Read more: Young Canadians struggled most financially in 1st year of COVID-19 pandemic: Ipsos poll

She said Health Canada is not expecting results from the Jannsen clinical trial until 2022.

“So potentially by the end of the calendar year we might have some answers for children, but it really will depend on how those clinical trials are conducted and most importantly the results that we get from them,” she said.

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In a previous interview with Global News, Dr. Karina Top, a pediatric and infectious disease physician at IWK Health Cente in Halifax and vaccine researcher at the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology, said children are lower on the priority list for COVID-19 vaccines because they have less severe outcomes when they contract the virus, and because they have a lower transmission rate.

“Fortunately, COVID is generally or almost always a very mild disease in children,” Top told Global News.

“And young children (don’t) contribute to the spread of COVID as much as adults or older age groups,” she continued. “So for that reason, the focus has been on vaccinating the older populations and then working our way down in age groups to protect the most vulnerable.”

Read more: Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

As of Friday, a total of 152,578 cases of the novel coronavirus had been reported in those under 19 years of age.

That means approximately 16.9 per cent of Canada’s total coronavirus infections have been detected in children and teenagers.

–With files from Global News’ Marney Blunt

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Ontario hospitals may have to withhold care as COVID-19 fills ICUs

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By Allison Martell and Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Doctors in the Canadian province of Ontario may soon have to decide who can and cannot receive treatment in intensive care as the number of coronavirus infections sets records and patients are packed into hospitals still stretched from a December wave.

Canada‘s most populous province is canceling elective surgeries, admitting adults to a major children’s hospital and preparing field hospitals after the number of COVID-19 patients in ICUs jumped 31% to 612 in the week leading up to Sunday, according to data from the Ontario Hospital Association.

The sharp increase in Ontario hospital admissions is also straining supplies of tocilizumab, a drug often given to people seriously ill with COVID-19.

Hospital care is publicly funded in Canada, generally free at the point of care for residents. But new hospital beds have not kept pace with population growth, and shortages of staff and space often emerge during bad flu seasons.

Ontario’s hospitals fared relatively well during the first wave of the pandemic last year, in part because the province quickly canceled elective surgeries.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario told doctors last Thursday that the province was considering “enacting the critical care triage protocol,” something that was not done during earlier waves of the virus. Triage protocols help doctors decide who to treat in a crisis.

“Everybody’s under extreme stress,” said Eddy Fan, an ICU doctor at Toronto’s University Health Network. He said no doctor wants to contemplate a triage protocol but there are only so many staff.

“There’s going to be a breaking point, a point at which we can’t fill those gaps any longer.”

In a statement, the health ministry said Ontario has not activated the protocol. A September draft suggested doctors could withhold life-sustaining care from patients with a less than 20% chance of surviving 12 months. A final version has not been made public.

Ontario’s Science Advisory Table had been forecasting the surge for months, said member and critical care physician Laveena Munshi. During a recent shift she wanted to call the son of a patient only to discover he was in an ICU across the street.

“The horror stories that we’re seeing in the hospital are like ones out of apocalyptic movies,” she said. “They’re not supposed to be the reality we’re seeing one year into a pandemic.”

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In COVID-19 vaccination pivot, Canada targets frontline workers

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By Anna Mehler Paperny

TORONTO (Reuters) – Canada is shifting its vaccination campaign to target frontline workers, moving away from a largely age-based rollout as the country tries to get a handle on the raging third wave of the pandemic.

Canada‘s approach thus far has left unvaccinated many so-called “essential workers,” like daycare providers, bus drivers and meatpackers, all of whom are among those at higher risk of COVID-19 transmission. Provinces are now trying to adjust their strategy to tackle the surge driven by new variants.

Targeting frontline workers and addressing occupation risk is vital if Canada wants to get its third wave under control, says Simon Fraser University mathematician and epidemiologist Caroline Colijn, who has modelled Canadian immunization strategies and found “the sooner you put essential workers [in the vaccine rollout plan], the better.”

Initially, Canada prioritized long-term care residents and staff for the vaccines, as well as the very elderly, health workers, residents of remote communities and Indigenous people.

Targeting vaccinations by age made sense early on in a pandemic that ravaged Canada‘s long-term care homes, Colijn said. But now, immunizing those at highest risk of transmission brings the greatest benefit.

“If you protect these individuals you also protect someone in their 60s whose only risk is when they go to the store. … The variants are here now. So if we pivot now, but it takes us two months to do it, then we will lose that race.”

Data released on Tuesday from the Institute of Clinical and Evaluative Sciences showed that Toronto’s neighbourhoods with the highest rates of COVID-19 infections had the lowest vaccination rates, underscoring the disparities in vaccination.

‘IT’S A JUGGERNAUT’

On Wednesday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a plan to have mobile vaccine clinics target COVID-19 “hotspots” and high-risk worksites, although he stopped short of giving people paid time off to get the shot.

Karim Kurji, medical officer of health in York Region north of Toronto, characterizes the shift in vaccination priority from age to transmission risk as moving from defence to offence.

“It’s a juggernaut in terms of the immunization machinery, and turning it around takes a lot of effort,” Kurji said.

Meanwhile, officials in the western province of Alberta say they are offering vaccines to more than 2,000 workers at Cargill’s meatpacking plant in High River, site of one of Canada‘s largest workplace COVID-19 outbreaks. Provincial officials said in a statement they are looking to expand the pilot to other plants.

Quebec will start vaccinating essential workers such as those in education, childcare and public safety in Montreal, where neighbourhoods with the highest vaccination rates have been among those with the lowest recorded infection rates.

The people doing the highest-risk jobs, from an infectious disease perspective, are more likely to be poor, non-white and new Canadians, health experts say. They are less likely to have paid leave to get tested or vaccinated or stay home when sick and are more likely to live in crowded or multi-unit housing. They need to be prioritized for vaccination and their vaccination barriers addressed, experts say.

Naheed Dosani, a Toronto palliative care physician and health justice activist, said making vaccines available to high-risk communities is not enough without addressing barriers to access.

“The face of COVID-19 and who was being impacted changed dramatically. The variants seemed to take hold in communities where essential workers live. … This [pivot] is a step in the right direction and will hopefully save lives.”

 

(Reporting by Anna Mehler Paperny; Editing by Denny Thomas and Aurora Ellis)

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Canada finance minister: Pandemic an opportunity to bring in national childcare

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OTTAWA (Reuters) – The COVID-19 pandemic and its damaging impact on women has underlined the need for a national childcare plan, which would also help the economic recovery, Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Thursday.

Since taking up her job in August, Freeland has repeatedly spoken about a “feminist agenda,” and has said childcare will be part of a stimulus package worth up to C$100 billion ($79.6 billion) over three years. She will unveil details in her April 19 budget.

“I really believe COVID-19 has created a window of political opportunity and maybe an epiphany … on the importance of early learning and childcare,” Freeland told a online convention of Canada‘s ruling Liberal Party.

The budget is set to be a springboard for an election that Liberal insiders say is likely in the second half of the year.

Canadian governments of various stripes have mused about a national childcare program for decades but never acted, thanks in part to the cost and also the need to negotiate with the 10 provinces, which deliver many social programs.

Freeland said a childcare program would help counter “an incredibly dangerous drop” in female employment since the start of the pandemic.

“It is a surefire way to drive jobs and economic growth … you have higher participation of women in the labor force,” Freeland said. “My hope … is that being able to make that economic argument as well is going be to one of the ways that we get this done.”

Freeland, who is taking part this week in meetings of the Group of Seven leading industrialized nations and the International Monetary Fund, said U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had told her they saw early learning and child care as a driver for economic recovery.

($1=1.2560 Canadian dollars)

 

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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