Last week, Interior Health began offering the pediatric COVID-19 vaccines to children age five to 11 in communities across the region.
The response from families and communities has been positive and thousands of children in this age group have already booked appointments across B.C.
Many families have expressed how relieved and grateful they are to have their younger children vaccinated against COVID-19. There are also others who have questions, understandably, and it is important we continue to make it easy for parents and guardians to have access to the factual information they need to make the decision to get everyone in their family vaccinated.
The pediatric Pfizer vaccine is available for five to 11 year olds in B.C. It is a smaller dose of the same vaccine administered to millions people globally over the past year.
There were no severe reactions in children during clinical trials and any mild side effects (sore arm, fever) subsided in a day or two. In our clinics across IH, specially trained pediatric immunizers and public health nurses are on hand to provide care and support children receiving the vaccine.
Like youth and adults, we know children need protection from COVID-19. Since Sept. 1, children aged five to 11 have accounted for 16 per cent, or close to 2,000 of COVID-19 cases in the Interior region, the highest rate of infection of all age groups.
While most of these children experience mild to moderate illness from the COVID-19 virus, some children can get severely ill requiring hospital admission while others can have lingering symptoms or health issues long after their infection. Vaccination will help reduce this risk and these impacts.
Data from studies of children aged five to 11 has shown that the vaccine is 91 per cent effective against preventing COVID-19 infections, and even better for preventing severe illness and hospitalization. This level of immunity is remarkable. Still, we know that the body takes time build its immune response and that full immunity is achieved about seven days after the second dose.
I know some families are tempted to “wait and see,” and to put off the decision to vaccinate children for a few months. However, as we head into the holiday season and winter gatherings, vaccination offers the best protection – now and in the first months of the New Year.
When children are immunized, not only are they better equipped to fight off infection, but they’re less likely to need to miss school or social activities that are important to their well-being. They’re also less likely to spread the virus to others, including grandparents, aunts and uncles, neighbours or people with compromised immune systems. Don’t delay the benefits by waiting longer than necessary.
Now is the time to consider the reasons that are important to your family and to register your children to be vaccinated at gov.bc.ca/vaccineforkids and if you have any questions or concerns, please speak with your family’s care provider, call 8-1-1 or visit www.interiorhealth.ca.
Dr. Sue Pollock is the interim chief medical health office at the Interior Health Authority.