As Pfizer awaits Health Canada’s approval of its COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5 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.
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.
TORONTO — Ontario’s rising COVID-19 infection curve is a continuation of the fourth wave that started earlier in September, and not the start of a fifth wave, the province’s top doctor said Thursday as he warned that the upward trend would continue.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said case counts never got back to a low level despite a slight dip before steadily increasing again in late October.
“We never declared the fourth wave over, this is simply a continuance,” Moore told reporters.
“Sadly, all modelling would predict this would slowly, steadily rise and increase over the coming months, including January and February.”
He said higher case counts were anticipated as people moved indoors in the cold weather, and asked people to remain cautious until the weather warms up in the spring and more people become eligible for third vaccine doses to protect against the “formidable foe” of COVID-19.
“It just continues to want to spread and it won’t slow down again until we get outdoors in the springtime,” he said. “We do have a time period over the next four months that we’ll have to continue to be very, very vigilant.”
Ontario reported 748 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday and five more virus-related deaths as the seven-day average for infections climbed to 692.
2:43 Dr. Samir Gupta answers parent questions about the COVID-19 vaccine
Dr. Samir Gupta answers parent questions about the COVID-19 vaccine
Some health units in the province’s north and southwest have been responding to local case surges and Moore said the province was working on sending resources to help.
Moore, Premier Doug Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott have all said the province will respond locally to COVID-19 surges and not reintroduce public health measures across the whole province.
Experts have linked the late-October rise in cases in part to the lifting of capacity limits in some indoor spaces, and some health units have since reintroduced those measures.
2:47 Ontario COVID vaccine clinics now offering Pfizer shots to children aged 5-11
Ontario COVID vaccine clinics now offering Pfizer shots to children aged 5-11
On Thursday, Moore said the province is also monitoring acute care capacity in hospitals.
Ontario’s science advisory table has modelled for intensive care occupancy to hit 200 patients by the new year. As of Thursday, there were 135 patients in Ontario intensive care units, including some from Saskatchewan.
The top medical executive for Ontario Health, which oversees the provincial health system, told The Canadian Press this week that the province can handle between 250 and 300 intensive care COVID-19 patients before other services like surgeries would have to be cancelled.
Strang said Nova Scotia has the capacity to administer first doses to all kids aged five to 11 who want them before Christmas.
‘Make the COVID-19 vaccine a priority’
Children aged five to 11 will be considered fully vaccinated 14 days after their second dose. Strang said a minimum of eight weeks between doses is recommended.
If a child turns 12 between the first and second doses, the second dose will be the adult dose, Strang said.
He said children under 12 should not receive other vaccinations at the same time as the COVID-19 shot, but rather should leave 14 days between the COVID-19 vaccine and a different shot.
“If you do have to make a choice, make the COVID-19 vaccine a priority,” Strang said.
Those 12 and older can receive a COVID-19 dose at the same time as another vaccine.
Vaccine could be approved for babies, toddlers in new year
Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said Thursday that COVID-19 vaccines for babies and toddlers could be approved early in the new year, depending on how clinical trials play out.
Pfizer-BioNTech is running clinical trials for those aged six months to just under five years. Moderna is waiting for Health Canada approval on its COVID-19 vaccine for children aged six to 11, and is also in the midst of recruiting younger children for a clinical trial.
“I can’t tell you exactly when those results will be available,” Tam said of the trials. “It depends on how many people they recruit and how fast the trials go. But I think all of that is well underway.”
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner (Photo supplied by SMDHU via Zoom)
The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has updated its class order for self-isolation to include minors.
The move comes in light of a recent rise in COVID-19 cases amongst children and youth and to minimize infection rates in school settings.
The ten-day self-isolation rule now applies to anyone 18 years and younger who aren’t fully vaccinated and is living in the same house with an unimmunized person who has been identified as close contact.
Local Medical Officer of Health Dr. Charles Gardner calls this an additional public health measure to decrease the number of asymptomatic children entering the schools, which in turn will protect more student cohorts and minimize learning disruptions due to COVID-19.
As of yesterday (Tuesday), the health unit reports about 25 percent of local COVID-19 cases are in children under 12 years of age, who until this week have been ineligible for immunization.
Of all school-aged cases in the region, the agency shares approximately 50 percent are the result of close contact in the household.
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