COVID-19: Health Canada approves Pfizer vaccine for children five to 11

B.C. children will likely be able to get their first shots by the holidays

Photo: Kunal Mahto/iStock-Getty Images Plus

Children between the ages of five and 11 will soon be able to get vaccinated against COVID-19 after Health Canada granted approval to the Pfizer Inc. (NYSE:PFE) product Friday.

Israel gave the OK to administering the Pfizer vaccine to children in that age group on Sunday, while U.S. authorities approved it earlier this month. 

“To date, no safety issues have emerged from the use of Comirnaty [vaccine] in children five to 11 years of age in the United States, where over 2.5 million children have received their first dose,” said Dr. Supriya Sharma, chief medical adviser with Health Canada, using Pfizer’s official product name for the vaccine during a Friday briefing.

Health Canada’s approval was based on evaluations from 3,100 recipients, of which there were four reports of “serious adverse events that were ultimately determined to be unrelated to vaccination,” she said.

“The benefits of the vaccine outweigh the potential risks in this younger age group.”

A total of 4,600 children underwent evaluations, while 1,500 of them received a placebo.

The vaccine was found to be 90.7% effective in children five to 11 — similar to efficacy rates of the 30-microgram dose for older age groups.

The Pfizer product has been specifically tailored for children, and consists of a 10-microgram dose compared with a 30-microgram dose for those ages 12 and older.

“The main adverse events reported were similar to those of adolescents and young adults but were less frequent, except for redness and swelling at the injection site, which were slightly higher,” Dr. Sharma said.

“Other adverse events reported included fatigue and headache. Most reactions were mild to moderate in severity and resolved quickly on their own.”

Amid the fall and winter seasons, when many Canadians are getting their flu shots, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization is recommending children get their COVID-19 vaccine at least 14 days before or after another vaccine. This way, medical professionals can be sure whether any potential adverse reactions are related to the COVID-19 shot or another vaccine.

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry emphasized during a Tuesday briefing that the jabs will not be mandatory.

“But it will give your children as much protection as possible,” she said.

Henry said that same day B.C. children will likely be able to get their shots by the holidays.

In a Friday news release that followed Health Canada’s approval, Dr. Henry and B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said they “look forward to making the pediatric vaccine available for 360,000 young British Columbians as soon as possible.”

Health officials are soon expected to begin contacting B.C. parents who’ve already registered their children for the COVID-19 vaccinations. So far more than 75,000 B.C. children have been registered among the 360,000 eligible within that age group.

“We expect to get our supplies very quickly,” Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief public health officer, said during Friday’s briefing.

Filomena Tassi, the minister of public services and procurement, said during a later briefing that Canada will begin receiving deliveries of doses beginning Sunday. All 2.9 million doses needed for first shots are expected to arrive by the end of next week, while Ottawa is still firming up plans for deliveries for second doses.

Meanwhile, Ottawa will be pursuing a media campaign to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19.