School divisions in the Southeast say they’re hopeful the introduction of pediatric COVID-19 vaccines are one step in the right direction to ending the pandemic and will be offering the immunizations to children within their schools.
The province announced on Nov. 19 children aged 5-11 are now eligible to be immunized against the virus after Health Canada approved a lower volume dose of the Pfizer vaccine for adolescents. Parents in Manitoba could begin booking appointments on Nov. 22.
As of Wednesday morning, 22,000 slots for kids were spoken for. Approximately 125,000 kids between the age of 5-11 live in Manitoba.
Elaine Lochhead, co-superintendent of Seine River School Division, said while providing vaccinations is a public health responsibility, schools play an important role in that partnership.
"For parents [it’s] an easier way to get their child vaccinated than having to take time off work, take their child to a doctor or a pharmacist to get the vaccination," she said. "So we are working alongside of public health in helping this to happen."
Lochhead said governmental graphs showing data on infection rates in the 12-18 age group before and after vaccinations became available to them showed a clear decrease in infection rates and hopes the approval of a pediatric vaccine will show the same results.
According to the Public Health Agency of Canada children under the age of 12 account for the highest rate of new COVID-19 infections across the country.
The vaccine, much like adult doses, will require two shots with a two-week interval between jabs. The volume of the dose is one-third of that administered to adults.
Hanover School Division Superintendent Shelley Amos said HSD will also offer in-school vaccination clinics just like they did for the 12-18 age cohort.
"There's a lot of information from public health that vaccination is the way out of this in the future, so we want to make sure our families have the accurate information and make informed decisions for themselves and their children," she said.
Since September the division has had a high number of recorded cases of COVID-19 within their schools. As of Nov. 24 at least 185 cases have been identified within HSD schools, the highest of any division in the province.
During the second wave of the pandemic transmission rates in Steinbach skyrocketed to 40 percent, forcing the closure of schools in the area.
Vaccine appointments will be available through in-school clinics with parental permission, at provincial supersites and later at pharmacies and doctor’s offices.