British Columbia’s COVID-19 immunization program for children between the ages of five and 11 will start next week.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry says up to 350,000 children will be eligible for the vaccine and more than 90,000 kids are already registered.
“We do have light at the end of this tunnel,” Henry said Tuesday.
She says Health Canada has approved the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for use in Canada after an independent scientific review confirmed the first vaccine formulated for younger children is safe and works.
Henry says the vaccination of children is important to protect them from COVID-19, which continues to spread, especially with a fourth wave that is affecting children.
She says health-care providers trained and experienced in administering childhood vaccines will be staffing clinics across B.C.
Appointment invitations to families with young children registered to receive vaccines will start Monday, with vaccinations to begin almost immediately.
“Invites will be sent out early Monday, Nov. 29 and can book immediately in a clinic, including, there will be clinics open that day,” said Dr. Penny Ballem, the head of B.C.’s immunization rollout.
While some vaccinations will take place at the same clinics used for adults, there will also be special family clinics set up that are tailored to young kids, in some cases, evne at local schools after hours. The clinics will not be offered at pharmacies.
“Our sense is we’re going to get all the children through in next two months,” said Ballem.
According to a recent survey, 58 per cent of parents in the province intend to get their kids vaccinated right away, while 18 per cent say they’ll wait a while, Ballem said.
While they’re ready to answer parents’ questions and concerns, B.C.’s healtho fficials said they’re confident the vaccine is safe for this younger age cohort.
“Even though mrna technology is new to vaccine technology, it’s not new to medicine, it’s been around for long time, we’ve been using it for specific treatments for things like cancer,” said Henry.
About a quarter of the 350,000 kids eligible for the vaccine have registered online so far.
The invitations to book will be sent out in the order people signed up and siblings can go together.
Henry also noted that there has been a decrease in the number of children infected with COVID-19 in the 5-11 age group. Previously, that number had been increasing in the middle of September into October, but the number has now fallen below 500 for the “first time in some time,” Henry said.
The press conference comes as B.C. reported 324 new COVID-19 cases — including 36 in the Island Health region — and one new death on Tuesday.