A message from Dr. Unjali Malhotra, FNHA Office of the Chief Medical Officer
As a medical doctor, I am excited about the approval of a COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11. This approval sets the stage for what is arguably the most important childhood vaccination campaign since the polio vaccine was developed in the 1950s. As the mother of a child who is under 12, I have a personal reason for wanting the vaccines available to protect my entire family.
Vaccine trials for children aged five to 11 show very positive results. Health Canada has just approved the Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech) vaccine and the Spikevax (Moderna) vaccine is under review.
You may have heard it said that children are resilient — even against COVID-19. This is true. They have been so strong throughout these past two years. Like adults, some children can have the virus without showing any symptoms and when they do get symptoms, they can be milder than those experienced by adults.
However, children can also become very sick with COVID-19, particularly children with weakened immune systems and those with pre-existing lung conditions. The fact is, we can't predict which children will become severely ill or have long-term effects from COVID-19, such as MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome) and long COVID (symptoms that last for months). There have also been 17 deaths of children due to COVID-19 in Canada. That is 17 too many.
With newer variants emerging, including the more contagious and serious Delta variant, we are seeing more cases of children with COVID-19. Canadians under 12 currently make up over 20 per cent of COVID cases. This makes sense as children under 12 are now the largest group of unvaccinated Canadians.
The vaccines that will be available for children are similar to the ones for adults, albeit in smaller doses. Based on current data, the Comirnaty and Spikevax mRNA vaccines are safe, effective and have already been given to millions of children worldwide.
The vaccine dose for children is designed to work with their very strong immune systems. This is common for pediatric vaccines, which often have a smaller dose of the same active ingredient or active vaccine product as the adult version.
As with other childhood vaccines, the benefits of immunizing your children against COVID-19 are greater than the risk of leaving them exposed.
Parents can register their children now at gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated and they will be notified when they can book an appointment. Note that eligibility for children will be based on their birth date (a minimum age of five years) and not their birth year as was the case with youth aged 12 to 17.
The FNHA, the BC Centre for Disease Control, the Government of BC, ImmunizeBC and HealthLinkBC are all working together to help parents make an informed decision about vaccination, book their vaccine appointments easily, and provide any necessary post-vaccination care and information.
It's our responsibility as adults to protect children — not just by vaccinating them but by ensuring the whole family is vaccinated, too.
Resources from the BC Centre for Disease Control COVID-19 vaccine superhero: Jesse's story (colour | black and white)