Canada’s review of Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of 5 to 11 should be completed within the next “one to two weeks,” Health Canada’s chief medical adviser says.
“As with all of the COVID-19 submissions, we’re doing it on a priority basis and we have a dedicated team that’s looking at that data and that data is not just the clinical data, but as well the formulation,” Dr. Supriya Sharma told a Public Health Agency of Canada briefing in Ottawa today. “And we look at that in the Canadian context for the … possible use in children.”
Three weeks ago, Pfizer-BioNTech became the first company to seek Health Canada’s approval for a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine. Other companies, including Moderna, are working on children’s formulations.
While children aged 12 and older are already approved for the adult formulation, the pediatric formulation would be given in two smaller doses — 10 mcg (micrograms), instead of the 30 mcg used for those over the age of 12.
Sharma said last month that while the children’s version of the vaccine is “slightly different” from the adult one, it contains the same mRNA and works the same way.
The chief medical adviser also said that while Health Canada has a “completed submission” for a vaccine from Novavax, reviews of that product will continue.
Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam told the briefing that, for the second week in a row, “children under 12 continue to have the highest incidence rates across all age groups.”
Asked what could be done to encourage more kids in the 12 to 17 age group to get their shots, Tam said the group got access to the vaccines later than others and saw a “pretty good acceleration” in uptake at the beginning of the vaccination campaign.
“Things have been slowing down somewhat in the last weeks, so this is the last mile as well for them,” she said.
Tam praised student groups and ambassadors for non-government organizations for encouraging young people and their parents to get vaccinated.
Tam said there has been an 11 percent increase in new COVID-19 cases compared to last week, with an average of almost 2,500 new cases reported daily across Canada.
On average, more than 1,800 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized each day, with 528 treated in intensive care units and 22 deaths reported daily, she said.
Tam said that while more than 28 million people — representing 85 percent of the eligible population over age 12 — are fully vaccinated against the virus, there are still “sizeable gaps in vaccine coverage.” More than five million eligible Canadians and more than four million children under 12 have not been vaccinated.
“Where there are pockets of very low coverage, there is a higher risk of local surges in virus activity,” she said.
Tam said there’s been a 5.5 percent increase in first-dose vaccine coverage since about mid-August when the federal government and other governments announced new proof-of-vaccine requirements.
“Every day there are still more people getting vaccinated. Slowly,” she said. “We do believe that we can gain several more percentage points of those eligible … who haven’t already got their vaccine.”
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