Provinces face unique challenges in developing child-friendly mass vaccination strategies

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As Canada prepares to launch the largest and most urgent childhood mass vaccination campaign since the polio epidemic of the 1950s, health experts say there is a need to implement child-friendly COVID-19 outreach strategies. There is an urgent need to plan for those who avoid the agonizing headache. Vaccine rollout for adults earlier this year.

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The vaccines for COVID-19 are currently approved in Canada only for people 12 years of age and older. But the arrival of the shots is imminent for young Canadians. Last week, Pfizer/BioNtech submitted preliminary data to Health Canada for approval of its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

Once the shots are available, the work of delivering them to the children’s lap will begin. But organizing a vaccination campaign for children faces many unique challenges, experts say, and responding Parents’ questions about vaccine safety will be the key to success. Matters will be further complicated by a lack of national coordination: provinces and local health authorities will each be in charge of implementing strategies for their jurisdictions, but many say they have only begun the process of developing those plans.

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Canada’s 5 to 11 children could become eligible for COVID-19 vaccine next month

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During the pandemic, parents have heard that cases of COVID-19 in children are generally mild and rarely serious. For example, data from Ontario shows that less than 1 percent of school-aged children infected with COVID-19 end up in the hospital.

“The whole time, we’ve deprived kids of saying, ‘Oh, they’re fine, schools are good, kids are fine.’ Now, it has to be undone,” said Calgary pediatrician Cora Constantinescu and Infectious disease specialist who helps run vaccine hitchhiking clinics. “Children’s lives have to be a priority. We need to say that enough is enough.”

Serious consequences in children are rare – but when they do occur, they can be devastating. Many children can develop chronic COVID-like complications when symptoms persist for weeks or months, Dr. Constantinescu said. and he said that the uncontrolled spread of the virus could lead to Disruption of in-person schooling and other early childhood activities.

Now is the time to explore the specifics of running mass vaccine clinics for children, said Peter Ezzopardi, chief of pediatrics at the Scarborough Health Network in Toronto.

“We need to do it differently than we do in adults,” Dr. Azzopardi said. “We’ll need to be very conscious about what are [children] listening to what they are saying, which could potentially upset them.”

Dr. Azzopardi said it would be important for health officials to remember that children have different needs than adults, and the strategies that worked earlier this year may not be appropriate for the youngest Canadians. .

For example, instead of open vaccination stations in convention centers or hockey arenas, Dr. Azopardi said, it may be necessary to build private booths and find clever ways to get kids in and out to prevent fear of clinic spaces. Is. or sounds.

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Dr. Azzopardi said his hospital is working with Toronto Public Health and other partners to plan so that once the vaccines for children are approved, they are ready to go.

Rainn Goldman, a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at the University of British Columbia, said provinces should be creative with the locations of vaccine clinics to make the process easy and convenient for families. He suggested that the shots could be given in schools or at drive-in places where children could be vaccinated. in their families’ cars.

“I think it’s important to think outside the box when it comes to vaccinating children,” Dr. Goldman said. “We need to do this as quickly as possible once it’s approved by Health Canada.”

Despite urgent calls by some experts to create a vaccine plan for children under the age of 12, Many jurisdictions have yet to release details of their strategies.

A spokesperson for Alberta Health Services said if and when Health Canada Vaccines approved for children. Last week, Toronto Public Health said it had set up a working group for a vaccine rollout for children, but had no plans or details. are ready for public release. A spokeswoman for British Columbia’s health ministry said the province’s vaccine campaign for children ages 5 to 11 would likely take place in a mix of community and school clinics and pharmacies, but gave no specifics.

Experts say provinces should make the COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for school attendance. Some provinces, including Ontario, already have similar requirements for routine childhood vaccinations.

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Parents may be more concerned about their children’s vaccinations than they were concerned about vaccinations themselves. An August survey by Toronto Public Health found that only two-thirds of parents had planned to vaccinate their children under the age of 12. About a quarter said they were unlikely, and 10 percent said they were unsure. At the time the survey was conducted, more than 80 percent of Toronto residents 12 years of age and older had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Since this is a new vaccine for children, people have some reservations. We have to accept it, we have to understand it,” said Mehrdad Hariri, CEO of the Canadian Science Policy Center.

That’s why experts say it’s important to include open, transparent messages that answer questions about safety in the next phase of the country’s mass vaccination campaign. But the campaign will also have to get off the ground, because in the case of school children are already spreading across the country.

“Right now, COVID is the biggest threat in our country in terms of vaccine-preventable diseases,” Dr. Constantinescu said. “I think we need to change the conversation.”

She wants people to know that after nearly two years of worry, a way to protect her children is at her doorstep. While she acknowledges that it’s important to answer every question parents have about safety and efficacy, she also wants the message to be about hope.

“It’s going to be a really big campaign, because of how hopeful it is for many parents,” Dr. Constantinescu said. Three of her own children attend an in-person school in Alberta, where the threat of COVID-19 is at an all-time high. “After all it’s a feeling of, ‘I can give protection to my child straight away.’ “

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With a report from Xiao Zhu

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Granthshala editors, giving you a brief summary of the day’s most important headlines. .

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