REGINA — Saskatchewan says it expects to get its first shipment of the COVID-19 vaccine for children on Tuesday and will begin vaccinations Wednesday.
The province is to receive 112,000 doses of the pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which is nearly enough for the 115,000 children between the ages of five and 11 who are eligible.
Saskatchewan’s chief medical health officer, Dr. Saqib Shahab, says parents in the province have a history of getting their kids immunized and he doesn’t think the COVID-19 shot should be any different.
He says immunization rates for other childhood vaccines is between 90 and 95 per cent.
“Parents have always gotten their kids vaccinated for other vaccine-preventable diseases. COVID is just another vaccine-preventable disease now, so it is up to parents to be comfortable and get their children vaccinated,” Shahab said Monday.
Health Canada approved the vaccine for the age group last week and the first batch arrived in Canada on Sunday.
In Saskatchewan, the vaccine is to be offered through 221 clinics in 141 communities andat over 200 pharmacies. Clinics are to be set up in more than 100 schools as well.
Education Minister Dustin Duncan has said the province is also working on a plan to ensure anti-vaccination protesters don’t congregate at schools as they have done at hospitals.
The Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority is to take the lead to vaccinate children in 33 on-reserve communities in the province’s north, while Indigenous Services Canada plans to immunize children from other First Nations at health centres and other facilities.
The province said such vaccine clinics will be held in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner, which may include interpreters, holding smudges, having elders available for support and translated vaccine information.
Dr. Tania Diener, lead medical health officer of immunization for the Saskatchewan Health Authority, said children “make up a very large percentage of new cases in the province and in Canada.”
The Public Health Agency of Canada has said children under 12 account for the highest rate of new COVID-19 infections.
“It’s likely an underestimation, because we know they can be asymptomatic and … spreading it,” Diener said.
“It’s very difficult to say when we might see an impact because of immunizing kids, but what we know for sure, (it) will help to break the transmission rate, to bring it down and stop this virus from spreading at the current rate in our communities.”
The Saskatchewan government said the goal of its pediatric vaccination campaign is to reduce serious illness and death among all populations.
Health Minister Paul Merriman said the arrival of the vaccine is welcome news for families who want protection for their kids against serious disease.
“The immunization of this age cohort will also help to reduce transmission of the virus and ensure that children can continue to enjoy their friends and activities,” Merriman said in a statement.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2021.