WINNIPEG — A group in charge of overseeing the COVID-19 vaccine rollout for Manitoba First Nations says shipments of a pediatric vaccine will go out later this week for about 15,000 eligible children who live on-reserve.
Health Canada approved last week the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11, and Canada received its first shipment of pediatric doses on the weekend.
Manitoba parents have started booking appointments for their children.
The province says the doses will be arriving at participating medical clinics and pharmacies between Thursday and Nov. 29.
The Manitoba First Nations pandemic response team says, depending on the size of communities, they may host vaccine clinics at local health centres, in schools or at community centres.
Dr. Marcia Anderson, who is the medical lead for the team, says children up to nine years old have had the most active COVID-19 cases among First Nations, and children between the ages of 10 and 19 are the second most active group.
“So really these vaccines can’t come soon enough. It’s another layer of protection that’s now available for the five to 11-year-olds,” Anderson said during a livestreamed news conference Monday.
“We can have a safe holiday season if we are getting vaccinated as quickly as possible.”
First Nations people are at higher risk of getting COVID-19 due to overcrowded homes and other environmental factors such as poor ventilation in schools.
While the group has seen less severe effects in First Nations children, it says there have been more hospitalizations due to the virus in the fourth wave than in previous waves.
“The benefits of this vaccine are really important, not just in preventing kids from severe outcomes, but in breaking up those chains of transmission that we see in communities that lead to large outbreaks that lead to multiple people or everybody in a household getting COVID-19,” said Anderson.
She added that outbreaks in communities are affecting children’s learning experiences, as some schools have shut down or moved to remote learning due to high case counts.
The team said it hopes to get 90 per cent of children vaccinated with a first dose before the winter school break.