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Child-sized doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine may soon receive the greenlight from Health Canada.

COVID-19 Update: Vaccinating kids, new federal proof-of-vaccination, concerns over “Delta plus” variant

Canada and the United States are expected to approve Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 in the coming weeks. The dose will be about one-third the size given to those aged 12 and up.

Pfizer submitted clinical trial data for its child-sized dose to Health Canada at the beginning of the month and formally requested approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration last week. In a statement, Health Canada said it would prioritize reviewing the submission while maintaining high scientific standards for safety, efficacy, and quality.

Clinical trial results submitted to regulators by Pfizer suggest the company’s vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in children ages five to 11. According to Pfizer, the results also show the vaccine induced a robust immune response in children.

If Health Canada greenlights the Pfizer shot for kids, Canada currently has enough doses to vaccinate all children between the ages of five and 11. But according to Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam, it may not be advisable to pull smaller doses from existing vials, as the children’s version of the vaccine is a slightly different formulation.

More than half of Canadian parents surveyed by the Angus Reid Institute plan to vaccinate their kids against COVID-19 as soon as the shots become available. Nearly one in five said they will wait a while, while 23% said they opposed the shots and 9% were unsure.

Ontario’s government said it is open to running mass COVID-19 vaccination clinics in schools to get as many children vaccinated as possible.

Meanwhile, the Quebec government announced it will end its pandemic-induced state of emergency once children in the province are vaccinated. Premier François Legault said he hopes that will be by the beginning of 2022.

In the United States, the Biden administration plans to vaccinate up to 28 million kids, with doses rolling out across the country within hours of formal approval. More than 25,000 pediatricians and primary care providers have already signed on to administer the shots.

China’s Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine is already approved in some countries for children as young as 3.

In other COVID-19 news:

  • Prime Minister Justin Trudeau unveiled a standard federal proof-of-vaccination for use within Canada and for international travel. All provinces and territories will be moving forward with the document, which lists a person’s name, date of birth, and COVID-19 vaccine history, as well as a QR code for verification.
  • Canada will continue to require travellers entering the country to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 PCR test, regardless of vaccination status. Less than 0.2% of tests administered at the border between February and July this year have returned positive. So far, Canada’s decision to “err on the side of caution has served us really, really well,” said Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland. The United States recently announced it would reopen land borders to fully vaccinated travellers on Nov. 8. However, Freeland cautioned that Canadians should only travel for necessity.
  • slightly more contagious mutation of the highly transmissible Delta variant of COVID-19, dubbed “Delta plus,” has been identified in Canada, with nine cases since July. The AY.4.2 mutation has accounted for an “expanding” portion of new infections in the United Kingdom this fall, making up 6% of cases genetically sequenced in the final week of September. However, it’s not yet clear if AY.4.2 will become a variant of concern. Francois Balloux, director of the University of London’s Genetics Institute estimates 4.2 could be up to 10% more transmissible than the original Delta variant, which in turn was twice as transmissible as the first wild strains of COVID-19.
  • Health Canada is warning Canadians against taking ivermectin to prevent or treat COVID-19 as poison control centres have reported an increase in calls related to the anti-parasitic medication. “There is no evidence that ivermectin works to prevent or treat COVID-19, and it is not authorized for this use,” Health Canada stated.
  • COVID-19 hospitalizations in British Columbia reached a five-month high on Oct. 19, with 382 people hospitalized with active COVID-19 and another 200 recovering in hospital but no longer infectious.
  • Indigenous people account for a disproportionate number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in British Columbia, according to the First Nations Health Authority. Indigenous people make up 14% of COVID hospitalizations in the province, despite representing just over 3% of the population. And about 20% of those hospitalized are double vaccinated. Even though Indigenous communities were among the first eligible for COVID-19 vaccines, slow uptake may be contributing to the situation – just over 64% of eligible First Nations people in BC are fully vaccinated.
  • The federal government is sending 10 specialists from the Canadian Red Cross to help with infection prevention and control, contact tracing and testing in the Northwest Territories where the number of active COVID-19 cases has spiked to more than 260 after months of zero new infections.
  • Saskatchewan transferred six patients with COVID-19 to Ontario as the province grapples with record admissions to intensive care units. Provincial officials have asked the federal government for additional critical care nurses, respiratory therapists and perfusionists. Without additional public health restrictions, modelling shows hospitalizations for COVID-19 continuing to increase until December, with potentially 225 intensive care admissions by January – 149 more patients than ICU beds in the province.
  • The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario has barred two doctors from issuing medical exemptions for COVID-19 vaccines, masking requirements and testing. The College issued the interim orders under the Regulated Health Professions Act, which allows the College to impose license restrictions on members believed to be engaging in conduct that “exposes or is likely to expose patients to harm or injury.”
  • The Saskatchewan Health Authority is considering asking for photo ID at COVID-19 vaccination sites amid concerns that people may be fraudulently receiving shots on behalf of others. Officials recently warned vaccinators in Prince Albert that people opposed to getting the shot may be sending others in their place to secure proof of vaccination.
  • People aged 13 and older now need to show proof of vaccination to enter hospitals, long-term care homes, clinics, rehabilitation centres and other facilities in Quebec, unless they’re receiving care or services there. The health order applies to caregivers, companions, and visitors, but doesn’t apply to people visiting someone receiving end-of-life care, or people accompanying children or someone giving birth.
  • New Brunswick is offering free, at-home COVID-19 rapid tests to anyone who wants them at 20 distribution centres across the province. Meanwhile, Manitoba announced that pharmacists can perform, interpret, and provide rapid COVID-19 test results to travellers.
  • More than 3,800 health care workers in New Brunswick were not vaccinated as of Oct. 20 and could be sent home without pay if they don’t get a least a first shot by Oct. 22. Earlier this month, the province announced that public servants, educators, and health care workers must be fully vaccinated by Nov. 19.
  • The East African nation of Burundi started administering COVID-19 vaccines on Oct. 18. It was one of the last three countries in the world to give out vaccines. Only North Korea and Eritrea have not administered any COVID-19 vaccines, according to the World Health Organization.

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