Young children eligible for COVID vaccine

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JONATHAN HAYWARD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

Manitoba has received 14,900 doses of Moderna’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine from the federal government and expects a delayed shipment of 28,800 more doses to arrive soon, the provincial government announced Thursday afternoon.

Manitoba children between the ages of six months and four years are, as of Friday at 9 a.m., eligible to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Approximately 15 doctors’ offices are offering the pediatric vaccine to kids under five, with additional clinics expected to roll out their supply soon, according to Doctors Manitoba, which represents more than 4,000 physicians in the province.

Manitoba has received 14,900 doses of Moderna’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine from the federal government and expects a delayed shipment of 28,800 more doses to arrive soon, the provincial government announced Thursday afternoon. Half of the doses will be held back to be reserved for babies’ and toddlers’ second doses.

About a quarter of the initial supply — 3,700 doses — has been shipped to medical clinics and regional vaccine sites.

“Physicians are happy to see the eligibility of the vaccine expand to all children six months and older,” Doctors Manitoba spokesman Keir Johnson said.

Prevention treatment for some

A COVID-19 prevention treatment for immunocompromised individuals was quietly made available on a case-by-case basis in Manitoba three weeks ago.
Evusheld, a monoclonal antibody injection, was approved by Health Canada in April as a pre-infection treatment to prevent severe infection in people who already have conditions that suppress their immune systems. Manitoba received a supply of 1,100 doses in May, but didn’t introduce eligibility criteria to roll out the medication as a COVID-19 prevention drug even as other provinces did so.
In response to a Free Press inquiry Thursday, a Shared Health spokesperson stated Evusheld has been available on a case-by-case basis since July 18 and advised Manitobans who think they may be eligible to ask their specialists who treat them for conditions such as leukemia or organ transplants and stem cell replacement therapy. Shared Health stated health-care providers were notified Evusheld is available, but they didn’t announce it publicly because of “the limited eligibility criteria and need for case-by-case determination of whether treatment is appropriate for individual patients,” Shared Health stated.
Shared Health stated potentially eligible patients include:
• Lung transplant recipients
• Solid organ transplant recipients within the past six months
• Individuals receiving anti-CD20 agents or B-cell depleting agents (e.g., rituximab, ocrelizumab, ofatumumab, obinotuzimab, blinatumomab, inotuzumab, ibrutinib, etc.) within the last six months
• Individuals receiving CAR-T therapy, hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, or induction chemotherapy for acute leukemia
• Individuals with significant primary immunodeficiency affecting T-cells, immune dysregulation, or type 1 interferon defects
• Individuals confirmed to meet eligibility requirements listed above, must also meet the following criteria:
The patient must not have known cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease, history of myocardial infarction or stroke, unstable angina, heart failure, congenital heart disease or arrhythmias. Other risk factors for cardiovascular disease should also be considered, including hyperlipidemia and hypertension.
• Patients must be over 12 years of age and must weigh more than 88 pounds
• Individuals who believe they may be eligible for Evusheld should consult with the specialist responsible for providing care for their condition(s) outlined above. If individuals are not able to consult with their specialist, they should ask their primary care provider to consult with the appropriate specialist about eligibility, Shared Health stated.

“Parents with questions about the COVID-19 vaccine are encouraged to contact their child’s family doctor or pediatrician to get up to date and personalized information to help them make an informed decision about vaccination. In most cases, physicians will recommend proceeding with a COVID-19 (vaccine) for children in this group because of the benefits and protection the vaccine offers.”

A list of doctors’ offices that currently offer the vaccine is posted at ManitobaVaccine.ca.

Manitoba and Saskatchewan were the only provinces to restrict eligibility for Moderna’s pediatric vaccine based on lower supply, so that only the most vulnerable, high-risk children under the age of five could get their first shots after the vaccine became available last Wednesday.

Other provinces, such as Nova Scotia, restricted the number of available appointments to account for limited initial supply, rather than limiting eligibility within that youngest age group. The only previously approved pediatric vaccines were available for children over the age of five.

The federal government provided an additional 2,100 pediatric vaccine doses to First Nations health officials for distribution in their communities.

Provincial and federal governments don’t track rapid-antigen test results, which has led to artificially low test-positivity rates. But residents of First Nations in Manitoba, which have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, can now report their positive rapid-test results online through the First Nations Health and Social Secretariat of Manitoba. The ability to report the results by phone was launched in June, but now all First Nations residents, on or off-reserve, can have their positive rapid test results counted by going online to www.fnhssm.com or by calling 1-833-639-2068, the secretariat announced Thursday.

Manitoba’s COVID-19 load now includes 90 additional hospitalizations, seven ICU admissions, and six additional deaths. It marks a 48 per cent increase in total COVID-19 hospitalizations compared with the previous week.

The updated figures are included in the province’s weekly epidemiological report Thursday, which shows a cumulative increase in severe outcomes related to the virus. The report for the week of July 24 to July 30 also includes three additional long-term care outbreaks.

The province announced 53 new hospital admissions for last week, but an additional 37 were added to the total hospitalization tally since the previous week’s data was released. In the previous week’s report, 61 new hospitalizations were tallied. Similarly, the province is reporting one new death, but five others were recorded within the past week.

The weekly data is the only source of provincial information that provides a glimpse into the current COVID-19 risk in Manitoba. It shows a weekly test positivity rate of 17.1 per cent, but the volume of lab tests is decreasing, and only 269 people, on average, were tested per day. The majority of positive cases are never recorded because rapid antigen test results aren’t included in provincial case counts.

katie.may@winnipegfreepress.com

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

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