COVID-19: B.C. to offer Pfizer vaccine to kids 12 and up, possibly before end of school year

B.C. health officials are working on a plan after Health Canada approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in kids 12 and up.

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B.C. kids aged 12 and older could receive their first dose of the Pfizer vaccine before the end of the school year, according to health officials.

Following Health Canada’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine for use in children as young as 12, B.C. will integrate them into the province’s vaccine rollout, provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry said Wednesday.

“We’re working on how do we do that and how do we do it in the most efficient way possible,” she said. “There’s lots of possibilities including making sure we can get that done prior to June.”

Henry said kids aged 12 and older could be fully immunized with two doses before the next school year, although younger children may have to wait until the end of the year because clinical trials for those ages are still ongoing.

Asked about vaccinating students at schools, Henry said B.C. is looking at how to vaccinate kids most efficiently.

“The good news is we have a lot of vaccines. If all goes as planned in the next few months, so between May and June, we will have quite a lot of vaccines, so we should be able to fit this into our program, and still reach that goal of having at least first doses into the entire population by the end of June,” she said.

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There are about 300,000 children between the ages of 12 and 17 in B.C.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring said the news comes as a “big relief” to teachers.

“I hope the plans include going to school sites to start vaccinating,” she said.

Mooring also wants to see the province’s the vaccination program for essential workers, like teachers, sped up so teacher have their second doses before September.

On Wednesday, Health Canada said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can now be given to kids as young as 12, making Canada the first country to authorize its use for children 12 and older. The vaccine was previously authorized for anyone 16 and older.

A trial of more than 2,200 youth in that age group in the United States recorded no cases of COVID-19 among vaccinated kids. The trial used the same size doses, and the same two-doses requirement, as the vaccine for adults.

Health Canada’s chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said the evidence shows the vaccine is safe and effective for adolescents.

Sharma said about one-fifth of all cases of COVID-19 in Canada have occurred in children and teenagers, and having a vaccine for them is a critical part of Canada’s plan.

She said while most kids don’t experience serious illness from COVID-19, protecting them with a vaccine also helps protect their friends and family, who may be at higher risk of complications.

“It will also support the return to a more normal life for our children, who have had such a hard time over the past year,” she said.

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company expects to have data on trials in kids between two and 11 years old in time to apply for authorization in the United States in September. The company has generally applied to Canada for approval around the same time.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expects to authorize the vaccine for 12 to 15 year olds next week.

More to come …

With files by the Canadian Press and Katie DeRosa

gluymes@postmedia.com

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