Health Canada says the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can now be given to kids as young as 12, prompting provinces around the country to adopt the new recommendation.
B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said during a Wednesday Zoom news conference with reporters that the use of Pfizer in kids 12 and older is good news.
“I wanted to let people know that we are absolutely planning on integrating that into our program,” she said.
Henry says approximately 300,000 children in B.C. should be vaccinated by the end of the school year.
The other provinces moved quickly to also approve the vaccine, including Alberta.
“By this coming Monday, every single Albertan over the age of 12 will be eligible to receive a covid-19 vaccine,” Alberta Premier Jason Kenney announced.
The vaccine was previously authorized for anyone at least 16 years of age or older.
A trial of more than 2,200 youth in that age group in the United States recorded no cases of COVID-19 among vaccinated kids.
“After conducting a thorough review of the evidence, the department determined this vaccine is safe, and effective for use in this younger age group,” said Health Canada’s chief medical advisor Dr. Supriya Sharma.
It is the first vaccine approved for children in Canada, and Sharma says it is a significant step forward in Canada’s fight against COVID-19.
The trial used the same size doses, and the same two-dose requirement, as the vaccine for adults.
Sharma said about one-fifth of all cases of COVID-19 in Canada have occurred in children and teenagers, and having a vaccine for them is a critical part of Canada’s plan.
She said while most kids don’t experience serious illness from COVID-19, protecting them with a vaccine also helps protect their friends and family, who may be at higher risk of complications.
“It will also support the return to a more normal life for our children, who have had such a hard time over the past year,” she said.
Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said today the company expects to have data on trials in kids between two and 11 years old in time to apply for authorization in the United States in September.
The company has generally applied to Canada for approval around the same time but in this case Canada is ahead of the U.S.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expects to authorize the vaccine for 12 to 15-year-olds next week.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 5, 2021.