The COVID-19 vaccination rollout across Canada has so far focused on people 18 and older. However, new developments are on the way from Pfizer and other vaccine manufacturers.
Health Canada announced the approval of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children ages 12 to 15 on Wednesday after successful clinical trials.
Previous to this announcement, Pfizer-BioNTech had only been approved for ages 16 and up.
Provinces and territories across Canada have reacted to this news and are now working towards rolling out vaccinations for children 12 and up.
My kids just high-fived me on this news!
— Rasu Shrestha MD MBA (@RasuShrestha) May 6, 2021
“After completing a thorough and independent scientific review of the evidence, the department determined that this vaccine is safe and effective when used in this younger age group,” said Health Canada’s chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma.
While Ontario has not announced any concrete plans on how or when they will begin vaccinating ages 12 and up, the province said it is in the process of doing so.
Some suggest, the best way to accomplish this is a mass vaccination in schools.
Christine Elliott, Ontario’s minister of health, called the approval “wonderful news” on Wednesday and expressed that they were already in conversations “with the minister of education to make sure that [they] can start as soon as possible.”
The trial conducted in the United States found the vaccine to be 100 per cent effective with ample antibody response in children aged 12 to 15.
“The initial results we have seen in the adolescent studies suggest that children are particularly well protected by vaccination,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of BioNTech. “It is very important to enable them to get back to everyday school life and to meet friends and family while protecting them and their loved ones.”
Pfizer is the first COVID-19 vaccine to be approved in Canada for children in this age group.
Health Canada based this approval on BioNTech’s Phase 3 clinical trial results with 2,260 participants aged 12 to 15.
Children in this age group have been approved to receive the same two-dose regimen as adults, and Dr. Sharma said, “the most commonly reported side effects were temporary and mild, like a sore arm, chills or fever.”
The news is significant as Canada is having the most success regarding vaccine delivery with Pfizer, and is expected to receive millions of doses over the coming months and into summer. The federal government expects to have enough vaccines for all Canadians to get jabbed by this September.
Achieving herd immunity and getting back to a semblance of normalcy would be challenging without immunizing those under 18, which represent a significant portion of the population.
While Pfizer-BioNTech is the only COVID-19 vaccine approved for children in Canada so far, Moderna announced in its first-quarter earnings report on Thursday that according to early data its COVID-19 vaccine is 96 per cent effective in children ages 12 to 17.
— Janice Dash (@Trazlersgal) May 6, 2021
The Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines have also made moves towards trials for children.
Johnson & Johnson announced on April 2 that as part of its Phase 2a study it would begin vaccinating adolescent children ages 12 to 17.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on adolescents, not just with the complications of the disease, but with their education, mental health, and well-being,” said Dr. Paul Stoffels, vice-chairman of the executive committee and chief scientific officer at Johnson & Johnson. “It is vital that we develop vaccines for everyone, everywhere, to help combat the spread of the virus with the goal to return to everyday life.”
According to a press release, the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine candidate will initially be tested in a small number of adolescents aged 16-17 years old before being expanded to a larger group of younger adolescents upon review of the initial data.
AstraZeneca was looking to expand its trials to children ages 6 to 17 in February, however it was put on hold due to rare blood clotting issues in adults.
According to Dr. Sharma, people in Canada can expect to hear more about how this development may affect mass vaccination from federal officials today.