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Vaccinations for children, Toronto is ready

TORONTO – Now that Health Canada – after a long wait – has approved the first Covid-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 years, the provinces could start as early as this week to offer the first dose. 

After a careful review of the data — Pfizer and its partner BioNTech filed for approval on Oct. 18 — the department determined that the vaccine’s benefits for children between the ages of five and 11 are far greater than the risks. “Overall this is great news,” said Supriya Sharma, chief medical advisor at Health Canada, referring to the growing number of Covid-19 cases among children during the fourth wave of the pandemic.

In Canada, 2.9 million doses of vaccines for paediatric use are expected to arrive, enough to administer a first dose to every child in the age group in question.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos said he expects parents to welcome the news of the vaccine’s approval. The Public Health Agency of Canada will soon launch media campaigns to encourage parents to have their children vaccinated and will work closely with pediatricians and other health professionals. “It is very important to support children and their parents and make informed decisions about Covid-19 vaccination, respecting their choices and the pace of decision-making,” said Chief Public Health Office Theresa Tam.

Among the reasons that officials consider important for deciding in favor of immunization in children are cases of multisystem inflammatory disease, long-term Covid-19 and inflammation of the heart. The risks, moreover, according to Tam, are low. “Most of the outbreaks that are reported to us come from school and kindergarten – said Theresa Tam – the main side effects for children are the same as for adults, but apart from redness and swelling at the injection site, they are less common in children”.

Meanwhile, it is already possible to make appointments on the provincial booking platform: in Toronto, mass immunization clinics provide 20 thousand additional appointments. “Now that the Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for children aged 5 to 11, our Team Toronto Kids Vaccination Plan is ready to be put in place – said Board of Health Chair Joe Cressy – our vaccination plan aims to ensure that families can choose the most accessible option for them: in addition to our city-run clinics, vaccines will also be available in school and community clinics, doctors’ offices and pharmacies.”

In the coming weeks, Toronto Public Health plans to hold 390 school clinics in nearly 300 different schools, as well as dozens of other pop-up clinics across the city. “We should approach those who have questions about this issue in an empathetic way and take their questions seriously, but I think that in the end we will see many children receive this vaccine,” said infectious disease specialist Isaac Bogoch.

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