The first COVID-19 booster vaccine for children has been approved in Canada as kids across the country get ready to start another school year.
Health Canada on Friday said it had authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot for children aged five to 11 years at least six months after completing their second dose.
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Under new guidance also released on Friday, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) strongly recommended the third dose be offered to children who have underlying medical conditions, including immunocompromised children.
For all other children, NACI said a first booster dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty (10 mcg) COVID-19 vaccine may be offered at least six months after their last shot.
A shorter interval of at least three months may be warranted in the context of increased COVID-19 activity and risk, NACI said, although a longer interval may result in a stronger immune response, it added.
“This booster dose provides a great option to restore protection for this age group, especially for those who are at high risk of severe illness,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, during a virtual news conference Friday.
With less than 50 per cent of Canadian children aged 5-11 fully vaccinated with two doses, NACI continues to strongly recommend a primary series of an authorized mRNA COVID-19 vaccine — from Pfizer and Moderna — as a “top priority”, said Tam .
She said a COVID-19 booster dose is up to 90 percent effective in protecting against severe outcomes.
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In making its recommendations, NACI said it reviewed the spread and severity of COVID-19 in this age group, protection from vaccination and infection as well as clinical trial data, which showed that Pfizer’s booster dose was well tolerated in children aged 5 to 11 years. .
“Side effects were typically mild or moderate and resolved themselves within a few days,” NACI said.
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While Pfizer’s vaccine was given the green light to be used as a booster, Moderna’s Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine is only authorized to be used as a primary series for the first two doses for children aged 6 to 11 in Canada.
In July, Health Canada approved Moderna’s Spikevax COVID-19 shot for the nearly two million children under the age of five.
Meanwhile, daily COVID-19 cases are declining across the country, but public health officials and other experts have warned infections could surge again in the fall as activities move indoors.
That is why NACI has recommended booster shots this fall in advance of a possible future wave of COVID-19.
Hospitalizations and deaths are also relatively stable after an early summer wave, but they remain far higher than in past years, according to the latest government data.
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Tam stressed that Canadians should stay updated with their COVID-19 vaccinations even though the Timing and severity of future waves is uncertain.
“We must prepare for renewed activity of potential new variants of the virus in the months ahead,” she said.
“In particular, as part of preparing ourselves for the fall, with more people returning to in-person work and children going back to (school), getting vaccinations up to date is a top priority.”
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