Ontario health official casts doubt on whether vaccination requirements will ever be extended to children ages 5 to 11

Ontario’s top public health official says it would be “putting the cart in front of the horse” to extend vaccination requirements for children ages five to 11, as COVID-19 vaccines were only recently approved for use in the age group.

All persons 12 years of age and older must present proof of vaccination to access a range of unnecessary facilities in Ontario.

But right now, children under the age of 12 are exempt from the policy, which precedes Health Canada’s approval of Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine.

During a briefing Thursday, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore asked if the evidence for the vaccination requirement could eventually be extended to younger children as well, but he said further studies would be needed for that to happen.

It should be noted that data from clinical trials have shown that Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine was 90.7 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 in children, while not producing serious adverse reactions.

“We will review the science and benefits over time because it is a new vaccine and we are one of the first countries to have adopted this vaccine at this age. But we need time to review it before it would ever become part of a mandate, “Moore said. “I think it’s putting the cart in front of the horse.”

Right now, unvaccinated Ontarians who are 12 and up can not, among other things, eat at a restaurant, attend a sporting event or go to the cinema.

But children between the ages of five and 11, a group of about one million Ontarians, can do all of these things without being asked for proof of vaccination. Vaccines for that age group first became available to the general population yesterday.

In a speech to reporters, Moore said individual companies can still make a separate decision from the government to require younger patrons to be fully vaccinated.

But when it comes to a provincial-wide requirement, the health chief seemed to suggest he did not see it happening “at all.”

He said it was in part because it is a new vaccine, and “we want parents to feel safe in the decisions they make and not feel compelled in any way.”

“The biggest difference (with people aged 12 and up) is the length of time we’ve had and the breadth of science and study of the vaccine and the benefits in these age groups.” he said. “We have good science for the 12 to 17, we have determined its safety, its effectiveness, its benefits, and therefore it was included in the vaccine certification process. We just have to build that evidence base for the (pediatric) vaccine. It’s new, it requires time, and we want to build science to support implementation. But it’s a whole new rollout, so I honestly do not see its integration into the verification process at all. “

Moore’s comments on Thursday come as the proliferation of school-age vaccination kicks into a higher gear, after just a few hundred doses were administered on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ontario health officials have said about 100,000 school-age children are already booked to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at mass immunization sites.

Public health units will also run hundreds of school-based clinics.

Speaking to reporters earlier in the day, NDP leader Andrea Horwath said the most important thing right now is to get children vaccinated “as soon as possible.”

But she said she believes the government should ultimately extend the vaccination requirements to the age group.

“I not only believe that children should be vaccinated, but I believe that it should also be on the list of compulsory vaccinations in school,” she said.


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