REGINA - Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab is urging people to take advantage of the COVID-19 vaccine being offered to children as young as five years of age.
“This is a great opportunity for children five to 11 to get vaccinated. A quarter of our cases are in school-age children …” said Dr. Shahab at the province’s news conference Monday in Regina.
It was a chance to “further reduce our overall transmission” and reduce risk to others families, especially during the holidays, he said.
The Pfizer vaccine received Health Canada approval last week to offer doses to kids from ages five to 11.
Monday, the province announced plans to offer the vaccine to the five to 11 age group at clinics across Saskatchewan and at schools in the province. The booking system for pediatric appointments will be up and running at 8 a.m. Tuesday.
Shelia Anderson, the province’s co-lead for the immunization strategy, told the news conference the vaccine for Saskatoon and Regina will be arriving Tuesday, with clinics opening Wednesday.
For North Battleford, as well as Prince Albert, Yorkton and Swift Current, the vaccine will arrive Wednesday with clinics opening Thursday. A number of secondary sites will see distribution of the vaccine throughout the week. It was emphasized this was also an opportunity for those who are still unvaccinated to get a vaccine. It was noted by Dr. Shahab and other officials that many of the clinics are family oriented and can accommodate all age groups.
“This is a great time for families to come and get their first and second doses as parents,” said Dr. Shahab, as well as older siblings and those needing boosters.
The five to 11 age group will receive a slightly smaller dose than adults, and there will be an eight-week gap between first and second doses. Dr. Shahab noted those receiving their first dose will “see the benefit right away.”
At the moment, Dr. Shahab said there is no plan to expand proof of vaccination requirements to children in the five to 11 age group.
Dr. Shahab also said that for all the unvaccinated, this is the “last call.”
“This is our last call for vaccines not just for children five to 11 but for families who remain unvaccinated. And again, I’d just like to say what a privilege for us to have vaccines offered to this age group and how tragic it is … still to see hospitalizations and deaths in all age groups among people who still remain unvaccinated.”
For those who want a vaccine, the indication from the province is there is no issue with supply. Anderson said they are receiving the 112,000 doses of vaccine this week, and that will be enough to vaccinate all the five to 11 age group their first doses.
Dr. Shahab added they will be able to pull more doses to make sure everyone is able to get a first and then a second dose in January/February. “We don’t anticipate any pressure on vaccine supplies at this stage,” he said, but added they didn’t want to over order either.
“Our hope is there will be high uptake, but if uptake is lower or slow we only want to order as much as we need.”
Later, Dr. Shahab was asked about when he would expand the age groups eligible for vaccine booster doses, as other provinces have announced.
“In principle, everyone 18 and over will be able to get a booster at six months”, said Dr. Shahab. But he said that will be phased in, as the initial doses were given strictly by age.
Currently, the group eligible includes those who are age 65 and older, and ages 50 and over in the North, as well as health care workers and the extremely vulnerable and immune-suppressed.
“Right now, we have a bit of time because people are not becoming eligible at a younger age for a few weeks, but having said that, I think all of us should note in our diaries when do we reach our six-month anniversaries after receiving a second dose, and expect to get a booster — everyone 18 and over.”
Dr. Shahab added that we can expect further announcements on boosters in the next few weeks.