Here's B.C.'s plan to distribute COVID-19 vaccines to kids aged 5 to 11
Invitations to book COVID-19 vaccine appointments for kids aged five to 11 will start rolling out next week in B.C., health officials announced Tuesday.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, Health Minister Adrian Dix and Dr. Penny Ballem, the lead of B.C.'s immunization rollout, announced the vaccine rollout plan in an afternoon presentation.
Last week, Health Canada announced its approval of Pfizer-BioNTech's two-dose vaccine for children ages five to 11. The vaccine will be a smaller dose than what's given to those aged 12 and older.
"This is a major step forward," Ballem said.
B.C. officials have said the province will receive enough doses to vaccinate the 360,000 children in that age category as soon as possible. About 91,000 children have already been registered, officials said.
HOW WILL THE ROLLOUT WORK?
The first step for kids to get vaccinated is for parents or guardians to register them through the province's Get Vaccinated system. Registration is ongoing and parents are urged to sign their children up as soon as possible.
Children must have actually turned five to get their vaccine. Even if they're turning five soon, they must wait until their birthday, officials explained. Once they turn 12, they will receive the adult dose, even if they got the pediatric dose for their first shot.
Invitations to book appointments will start rolling out on Monday, Nov. 29, officials said. They won't be distributed by age, but in the same order that children were registered. There may be appointments available as early as that day.
Appointments are mandatory and drop-ins are strongly discouraged.
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Once families make an appointment, all eligible children can go to a clinic at the same time, which is why the rollout is prioritized by registration, rather than by age. Verbal consent will need to be given by the child's parent before the vaccine is administered.
Following recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, the two vaccine doses will be given eight weeks apart.
WHERE WILL CLINICS BE?
Officials announced there will be three types of clinics: smaller family clinics, all-age clinics and pharmacy clinics for those aged 12 and older. Children aged 11 and younger will only be able to get vaccinated at clinics organized by health authorities, not at pharmacies. School sites might be used, though clinics won't operate during school hours.
"We will have specific and unique child-friendly, child-appropriate attributes of those spaces to make sure children feel comfortable, that their parents are comfortable," Ballem said.
For children living in remote areas or small communities, health authorities will arrange scheduled community-wide clinics. It's expected booster doses will be offered to adults at the same time as the pediatric doses.
The First Nations Health Authority is arranging similar clinics for remote First Nations communities.
DO KIDS NEED THE VACCINE?
Health officials said Tuesday the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, effective protection against the disease and have gone through extensive scientific review before being approved by Health Canada.
"Health Canada's role as a health regulator is to do a through review of the safety data, to review the data on how well the vaccine works in children at that age group and to look at the good manufacturing data from the company," Henry said.
"This rigorous and independent review really can give us confidence that as it's approved by Health Canada it safe for use and we can trust that in our children."
Officials explained even though children are less likely to experience severe illness if they get COVID-19, that doesn't mean they aren't affected. For example, 19 B.C. children have developed multi-system inflammatory syndrome, or MIS-C. The rare illness can cause rashes, inflammation, stomach pain, vomiting or diarrhea, pink eye and swelling in lips, hands or feet.
As well, officials said about 20 per cent of B.C.'s current daily case counts are among children under the age of 12.
"Vaccination of children is important for a whole variety of reasons … we know that it's important to protect children individually, because we cannot always tell who is going to get the severe disease," Henry said.
"The vaccine also reduces that risk of transmission to close contacts, particularly people who are older or may have risk of more severe illness."
No children aged 12 to 17 who have had even just one vaccine dose have been hospitalized due to COVID-19, officials said.
Officials will distribute information through a province-wide campaign to help answer questions, but families are encouraged to talk to their family doctor if they have other concerns.