COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5 in Canada: When can parents expect a decision?

·5-min read
Health Canada says it anticipates a decision in the coming weeks on the COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5 and under. (Photo via Getty Images)
Health Canada says it anticipates a decision in the coming weeks on the COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5 and under. (Photo via Getty Images)

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Canadian health care providers may know within a few weeks when a COVID-19 vaccine will be available for kids ages 5 and under.

On July 5, Health Canada tweeted saying a decision on making the Moderna vaccine available for kids between 6 months and 6 years of age may come as early as mid-July.

Health Canada also provided an update on Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine submission, tweeting that it received a submission on June 23 from Pfizer-BioNTech to allow its COVID-19 vaccines for children 6 months to 5 years of age.

The news comes after the United States approved the first COVID-19 vaccines for children as young as six-months-old in June. Now, some physicians and parents in Canada anxiously wait to see when they might see a similar decision.

Why is the decision on a COVID-19 vaccine in kids taking longer in Canada?

A COVID-19 vaccine for the under-five age group currently has not been approved in Canada, but reviews are underway.

With regards to the two vaccines, Health Canada says it's "prioritizing the review of these submissions."

In a statement, Pfizer Canada tells Yahoo Canada that it's "actively working with Health Canada to provide the information" required for its reviews.

Shehzad Iqbal, Moderna Canada's medical director, also confirms Moderna is waiting on the approval of its vaccine Spikevax for young children and "cannot speculate on the timing of Health Canada's review."

Omar Khan, a biomedical engineering professor at the University of Toronto who has an expertise in vaccines for children, expects Canada will see a similar approval like in the United States.

“The reason it still takes time and is not automatic is that the burden is on Health Canada to then independently review all the data and just to make sure all the data is appropriately collected and analyzed,” Khan explains. “It’s for kids, so everyone is super extra cautious.”

The U.S. has already approved COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5

In the United States, COVID-19 vaccines from both Moderna and Pfizer have received approval from the Food and Drug Administration. They are currently available for kids under 5, reaching roughly 20 million children in the country.

The decision makes the United States the first country to approve vaccines for this age group, according to a statement made by President Joe Biden.

The vaccine approval comes nearly two years after COVID-19 vaccines were first available in the United States for adults.

The United States has approved COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna to be administered to kids under the age of 5. (Photo via Getty Images)
The United States has approved COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna to be administered to kids under the age of 5. (Photo via Getty Images)

Which vaccine is more effective?

It’s unclear which of the two vaccines — from Moderna or Pfizer — is better than the other, as no tests have been done to compare them directly.

In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Dr. Annabelle M. de St. Maurice says a vaccine from either company is a good option.

"The short answer is that both vaccines are very safe and effective," the pediatrician and UCLA Health co-chief infection prevention officer says. "Getting whichever vaccine is available to you first is the best vaccine."

Moreover, the two vaccines will be administered differently. Pfizer's vaccine will be administered in three doses, taking three months to complete a full round. But Moderna's vaccine will be given in two doses, taking one month to fully complete.

A Toronto doctor says there is an abundance of data that shows COVID-19 vaccines are safe for young kids. (Photo via Getty Images)
A Toronto doctor says there is an abundance of data that shows COVID-19 vaccines are safe for young kids. (Photo via Getty Images)

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for kids under 5?

Many health care providers are advising parents to get their young children vaccinated against COVID-19.

Experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine in the United States say the vaccine can help prevent kids from getting COVID-19 while also helping stop other variants from emerging.

Khan agrees that the COVID-19 vaccines are safe. He says once vaccine trials get down to the pediatric level, there's an “overwhelming amount of data that shows [the vaccines are] safe.”

“The reason why [medical companies] got to the point where they have applied [the vaccines] for pediatric use is because they have this abundance of data that shows safety,” he explains.

Khan also adds that by having unvaccinated kids, it means people continue to have an "unvaccinated reservoir" — and that creates certain risks.

“We’re really looking at not only preventing infection and preventing severe disease, but slowing or reducing the number of replication events, because that’s how you slow viral evolution,” he says.

Other experts agree there are many benefits to getting kids vaccinated.

Dr. Fatima Kakkar, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Montreal's CHU Sainte-Justine Hospital, tells Global News a vaccine for kids under 5 is a “final frontier” in the battle against COVID-19.

Kakkar adds that by getting kids vaccinated before they return to school, it could also help reduce the spread of the virus.

“I definitely think if the under-fives are vaccinated, it’s going to mitigate a potential fall wave,” she adds.

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