Support growing for vaccinating young children

  • October 21, 2021

The union representing Ontario’s Catholic teachers is endorsing calls to authorize COVID vaccinations for kids between five and 11, a move that seems to have the support of the majority of Canadians as well.

“For a safe and sustainable school year and to provide the greatest level of protection to our students and communities, Catholic teachers believe everyone working in or attending school who is eligible to be vaccinated, should be vaccinated,” said OECTA president Barb Dobrowolski in an email to The Catholic Register.

This follows an Angus Reid Institute poll released Oct. 18 showing a combined 69 per cent of the 812 participants declared they will get their children vaccinated immediately (51 per cent) or after they wait for a bit (18 per cent). Twenty-three per cent of respondents said they will not let their son or daughter receive the jab. Nine per cent of responders are “not sure.”

Pfizer and its biotechnology partner BioNTech made big waves in mid-October with formal requests in the United States and European Union for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for its COVID-19 vaccine — now branded Comirnaty in Canada — for children aged five to 11. This was followed on Oct. 18 by the pharmaceutical giant asking Health Canada for EUA approval.

Health Canada, in a statement, said it will study the matter before making its decision.

“Health Canada will only authorize the use of Comirnaty if the independent and thorough scientific review of all the data included in the submission showed that the benefits of the vaccine outweighed the potential risks in this age group,” its statement said.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization will also render a ruling.

Some medical experts believe it is only a matter of time before vaccines for children in the five to 11 age cohort will be approved. Saskatchewan’s Chief Medical Health Officer Dr. Saqib Shahab told reporters during a recent conference call he expects that approval will be granted by November. He added that “we should all be ready to vaccinate our children five to 11” when that day arrives.

The Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) has been on board as trustees passed a motion on Sept. 16 to enact a mandatory vaccine disclosure policy for all TCSDB staff. Board chairperson Joseph Martino wrote to Ontario Premier Doug Ford the following day requesting COVID-19 vaccines to be included in the Immunization of School Pupils Act “list of mandatory vaccinations for all eligible students to attend schools.”
That requirement has not been enshrined yet, so for now TCDSB is working hard to encourage students and staff to get vaccinated.

Should the vaccines be approved for the young ones, schools from coast-to-coast will once again be expected to serve as vaccination clinic zones to make Comirnaty accessible to every kid. Should doses for younger kids be approved, the TCDSB will collaborate on vaccine rollout with the Ministry of Education and Toronto Public Health, just like it did earlier this fall.

Parents who support vaccines for younger children are excited by the prospect. Edmonton mother Michele McCrea told Global News that she is eager to get her young child vaccinated as soon as possible.

“They’re a vulnerable population. I think this is one of the things we’re waiting for and once they are vaccinated, we will open them up to activities other than school,” she said.

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