Chief medical officer Dr. Catherine Elliott was joined by Yukon pediatrician and Canadian Medical Association president Katherine Smart during a COVID-19 press conference on childhood vaccination.
Jan. 27 is National Kids and Vaccines Day, which is focused on COVID-19 vaccines this year.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization updated its recommendations for children and the COVID-19 vaccine on Jan. 25. The committee had previously said children “may” be offered the vaccine, but has now changed its wording to “should” be offered the vaccine.
The Pfizer (Comirnaty) COVID-19 vaccine is currently the only COVID-19 vaccine approved in Canada for use for children under age 12.
“And that one little word means a lot in the scientific community. It speaks to the safety of this vaccine and its effectiveness,” said Elliott.
Boosters are now also recommended for immunocompromised children. For children eligible for that third dose the recommended interval is four to eight weeks after the second dose.
The current vaccination rate in the territory for children aged 5 to 11 who have received a first dose is 55 per cent. That rate matches most of the other jurisdictions in Canada, which is sitting at an average of 51 per cent.
“There was actually quite a lot of polling that was done asking parents about their intention regarding vaccinating their children in the age group,” said Elliott. “There was about 50 per cent of people who were really keen right out of the gate.”
Although no children have been hospitalized in the territory so far from Omicron, Elliott noted that across the country, the variant has affected both children and adults. More children have been hospitalized and more children have died during Omicron than any previous wave.
“We’re seeing almost a total elimination of hospitalization in children that have been vaccinated,” added Smart.
“I think for most parents their main concern is, ‘Is the vaccine safe?’ We can clearly say that it is and also it is effective at preventing possible hospitalizations and severe illness,” she said.
Responding to a question about limited vaccine appointments for children in Whitehorse, Elliott said it is important to note that each time slot represents a number of appointments and appointments have been added to meet demand.
Appointments for Whitehorse residents can be made online at www.yukon.ca/this-is-our-shot or by calling 1-877-374-0425.
Residents in most rural communities can make an appointment by calling their local health centre. More information on clinic dates and times is at www.yukon.ca/this-is-our-shot.
She also noted that public health will work with families whose children may be scared of needles. Elliott recommended applying a topical numbing lotion, available over the counter as Emla, to the upper arm prior to getting a shot.
“The second thing to know is that our vaccine program is very responsive,” she said.
“We’ll make special arrangements around different things that children need to help with to make them feel comfortable. We will work with you if you have a child with a severe needle phobia, or who’s uncomfortable getting vaccinated or anywhere in between. This is our goal to keep children healthy and safe,” said Elliott.
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