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Region to begin giving vaccine shots to kids

Parents in Waterloo Region can now book appointments to get their children between the ages of 5 and 11 vaccinated, a move that public health officials hope will counter outbreaks at schools.

Comirnaty, also known as the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, comes in a two-dose regimen of 10 micrograms each given three weeks apart, a lower dose than the 30 micrograms authorized by Health Canada for people 12 and older.

“We were all looking forward to the announcement and the ability to be able to vaccinate this vulnerable group in our community,” said Vickie Murray, director of pharmacy at GRH and St. Mary’s. “There’s emerging evidence that longer intervals between first and second doses vaccines result in more robust and durable immune response and higher vaccine effectiveness.”

In approving the use of the vaccine for school-age children last week, Health Canada said the vaccine was 90.7 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 in children 5 to 11 years of age, with no serious side effects identified.

The region began accepting bookings on Monday, with the first shots expected tomorrow (Friday). Parents can register online to get the first dose for their child at a regional vaccine clinic.

“Looking into the next couple of weeks we expect to be very busy vaccinating children – our clinics are ready. Working with our partners from primary care, community pharmacy and the school board, we will provide a variety of options to children to get vaccinated. Delta [variant] is in our community; we know that getting vaccinated saves lives and prevents illness,” said Murray.

The region is hoping to get the newly eligible age group vaccinated before the holidays as the second dose is recommended after eight weeks, meaning most children in the region won’t be double vaxxed until the new year. Prioritizing children’s doses, the region’s clinics at Cambridge Pinebush, The Boardwalk and Wellesley will be giving out only first and second doses from November 27 to December 12.

“Our primary care partners are very interested in starting children’s vaccines, as are our community pharmacies. People will be able to contact their physician for an appointment for the vaccine; they will be able contact the retail pharmacy for an appointment, and at one of our regional vaccine clinics. On top of that, we are going to be doing outreaches at some of our local schools.”

Another ‘Every Dose Counts’ event will operate at Cambridge Pinebush vaccination clinic December 11-12 to attempt to immunize 6,000 children by the end of the two-day blitz. Families have the option to book their child’s appointment for the event.

The region will be prioritizing children’s first doses until December 13, putting third doses on the backburner. Some doctor’s offices and pharmacies may also be prioritizing children’s vaccinations for the next couple weeks.

“Getting the 48,000 children in our community vaccinated will provide significant protection, not just for the children but for our whole community. We are looking forward to getting started,” said Murray.

Also last week, Health Canada received a submission from Moderna to authorize their COVID vaccine for children 6 to 12-years-old. That application is currently under review.

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