Children aged five to 11 eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine in N.B. starting Friday
Children aged five to 11 will be eligible to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech Cominarty mRNA vaccine in New Brunswick as of Friday.
“Many New Brunswick parents and guardians have been waiting eagerly for the opportunity to have their children vaccinated against COVID-19,” says Dorothy Shephard, health minister.
“The vaccine was carefully reviewed by Health Canada and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has recommended its use.”
Pediatric doses, which contain a smaller amount of the mRNA vaccine, have already started arriving in New Brunswick.
Parents and guardians can now begin booking appointments online for their children.
Vaccination clinics for this age group will be offered through the Vitalité and Horizon health networks.
“This has been a long time coming. Since the pandemic began nearly two years ago, I know that parents’ greatest concern has been protecting their children from COVID-19. This is a positive announcement for most New Brunswick parents, but I also understand that some people are still unsure about vaccinating their children,” says Shephard.
Dr. Jennifer Russell, New Brunswick’s chief medical officer of health, says she wants to reassure parents that the development of the mRNA vaccines was not rushed.
“While it may sound unfamiliar, mRNA technology is not new. Researchers have been studying and working with mRNA vaccines for decades to explore treatments for everything from the flu, to the Zika virus, to rabies. These vaccines have been used to trigger the immune system to target cancer cells in studies since 2011,” she says.
Russell says children will need to have two doses of the vaccine for full protection.
“We are following the recommendation from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, which advises that children should get their two doses at least eight weeks apart,” says Russell.
With the increase of variants of concern, like the Delta variant, Shephard says the province has seen increased cases of COVID-19 in children in New Brunswick in recent months.
“Approximatley 30 per cent of cases reported since the beginning of September are among youth under 20. By vaccinating as many people as possible, including children, we can significantly reduce the spread of community spread,” says Shephard.
“We can also lower the likelihood that other variants of concern will change into more infectious strains. We can put ourselves on a path to moving forward through this fourth wave, beyond the pandemic, and back to a more normal life.”
Dr. Rachel Ouellette, a Fredericton-based pediatrician, said vaccinating children is important, not only because of the potential risks of COVID-19 symptoms, but also because of the mental impact the pandemic has had on children.
“I want to assure parents that the vaccine has been thoroughly tested and has been found to be safe for children five and older,” said Ouellette. “Over the past 20 months, children have missed out, at times, on school, extracurricular activities and social events, causing increased stress and negative impacts on their mental health. By choosing to vaccinate your child, you can ensure they are able to continue with their daily routines and will not have to worry about missing out.”
Participating primary care providers and pharmacies will also play a role in immunizing children five to 11.
Public health says information on additional vaccination locations will be available in the coming weeks.