Children in Canada are one step closer to the protection of a COVID-19 vaccine in elementary school, with Pfizer-BioNTech seeking Health Canada’s approval for its version to be used for those aged five to 11.
Younger children have so far been ineligible to receive a vaccination and had been caught in extended school closures in some provinces in the last school year, including Ontario’s 28 weeks of online-only instruction between March 2020 and summer 2021.
The federal health agency said it would maintain its high scientific standards for safety, efficacy, and quality of medication while reviewing the submission (and those for other COVID-19 vaccines) as a priority, without indicating when it might issue a 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,” the agency said in a statement, referring to the vaccine by the name it was given recently.
Children, youth and younger adults have typically less serious outcomes than older adults if infected with COVID-19, but can still face extended repercussions.
Health Canada said the assessment will include a detailed review of clinical trials and other evolving data about how COVID-19 and its variants are affecting children in Canada, and that it expects other manufacturers to submit data for review in the coming months.
There are more than 1.5 million children aged five to 14 in Ontario (and almost four million in Canada, or a little over 10 per cent of the population, as of the 2016 census).
Just over three-quarters of youth in Ontario aged 12 to 17 have so far gotten two doses of an approved vaccine.
There have been a little over 1,200 COVID-19 cases in Ontario schools in the last 14 days, according to provincial data.