Anish Aggarwal was booked to bring his six-year-old son for a first Pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech shot this week at a superhero-themed vaccination clinic in Toronto.
“He doesn’t like needles at all, but he understands the importance of the vaccine as we taught him at home,” Aggarwal said.
“And the superhero theme is going to keep things interesting,” he said.
Health Canada announced last week all children aged five to 11 are now eligible to get the COVID-19 shot, which it said is safe and effective for this age group.
To encourage kids to get vaccinated, thematic selfie stations with superhero motifs will be available at vaccination clinics, as well as colorful “Team Toronto Kids” posters featuring a family of superheroes.
In data presented to Health Canada by Pfizer, the immune response in children ages five to 11 was comparable to that of people ages 16 to 25.
“The vaccine was 90.7 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 in children ages five to 11 and no serious side effects were identified,” the statement said.
U of T Health Sciences student Nimrit Kenth, who has an 11-year-old brother, welcomed the initiative.
“I’m feeling better now that I know my brother will also take the vaccine so we can have the whole family fully immunized soon,” she said.
On the day of approval, Ontario reported 793 new cases of COVID-19. Among them, 194 were under 12.
At the same time, schools across the province have been hit hard as young children wait for a vaccine. Ontario reported 112 new COVID-19 cases in public schools on Monday, bringing the total to 6,343 confirmed cases in schools.
Health Minister Christine Elliott told a news conference this week that “a third of the new cases of COVID-19 are in school-age children.”
“I think that speaks to the need to get children vaccinated is as important as adults being vaccinated,” she said.
Toronto Public Health said about two-thirds of parents who answered a survey earlier this month were “either certain or somewhat likely” to get their child vaccinated.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended children five to 11 wait at least eight weeks between doses.
“Shorter intervals between doses of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines result in lower antibody times, which may wane below protective levels more quickly over time,” NACI said.
Naheed Dosani, a palliative care physician in Toronto, called the news a big milestone toward Canada’s progress of conquering COVID-19.
The federal government announced it had procured almost three million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and the first delivery arrived Nov. 21.
Ottawa announced over the weekend that the vaccine mandate currently in effect for all those eligible ages 12 and up would not be extended for children ages five to 11.
There are about one million children aged five to 11 eligible to receive the vaccine in Ontario, which will help protect the province’s progress in the fight against COVID-19, keep schools safer and open for in-person learning as more people move indoors and attend family gatherings during the colder months this winter.
As of Tuesday this week, the provincial online booking portal was open and more than 87,500 appointments were booked in the first 12 hours, Elliott tweeted.
To date, the virus has taken the lives of more than 29,000 Canadians.