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Vancouver area leading B.C. in child and youth vaccinations

Vancouver -

The Vancouver area is leading the rest of B.C. when it comes to immunizing children and youths against COVID-19, according to a new breakdown of vaccinations by health authority.

The Ministry of Health released the numbers Monday afternoon, hours after tens of thousands of students across the province returned to in-person learning for the first time this semester.

They show the highest vaccination rates for children (ages five to 11) and youths (ages 12 to 17) are currently found in the Vancouver Coastal Health region, which stretches from Richmond up to Bella Coola.

Northern Health has vaccinated the fewest children and youths in those age groups. Though unequal access to vaccine was an issue in that health authority region earlier in the pandemic, officials said they have worked hard to increase the number of immunization clinics available to the population.

A total of 151,577 children between the ages of five and 11, and 269,821 youths between the ages of 12 and 17 had received at least one dose of vaccine as of Jan. 9, according to the ministry's numbers. The full breakdown by health authority is as follows:

  • Vancouver Coastal Health: 40,011 children (58 per cent), 59,232 youths (94 per cent)
  • Island Health: 28,331 children (53 per cent), 42,764 youths (90 per cent)
  • Fraser Health: 58,173 children (40 per cent), 114,205 youths (89 per cent)
  • Interior Health: 18,556 children (34 per cent), 38,436 youths (78 per cent)
  • Northern Health: 6,506 children (26 per cent), 15,183 youths (70 per cent)

Health Canada approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for youths as young as 12 back in May, but didn't approve the company's specially designed smaller dose for children between five and 11 until November.

While many parents rushed out to get their children vaccinated, the pace has since slowed down in many parts of the country, according to Dr. Laura Sauvé, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at BC Children's Hospital and chair of the Infectious Diseases and Immunization Committee of the Canadian Pediatric Society.

“I think that a lot of the families who are really keen have now had their first doses and the people who are left are people who need more information,” she said.

“It means that pediatricians, family doctors and public health ... have some more work to do to keep communicating messages about the fact that the vaccine is safe, the vaccine is very protective against getting severe disease – even though severe diseases are rare in children."

Dr. Ran Goldman, a University of British Columbia professor of pediatrics, also echoed the sentiment that getting credible information to families is important to help them weed through misinformation.

“I suggest that parents do not seek those answers in social media because what we see on social media is many times a stream of information that has been fed to us,” he said.

A UBC study found roughly 60 per cent of parents intend to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19. Goldman said it is now up to health-care providers to ensure the other 40 per cent get their children immunized.

The Omicron wave of COVID-19 has infected many people who are fully vaccinated, something health officials have partly blamed on waning immunity as well as the heightened transmissibility of the variant. They have also stressed that vaccination still reduces the likelihood of severe illness and hospitalization.

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