Ontario Premier Doug Ford says he understands parents who are hesitant to get their five- or six-year-old children vaccinated against COVID-19 once the shots are approved for kids.
Health Canada is currently reviewing data from Pfizer-BioNtech, which submitted an approval request for its pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 this month.
Speaking after an unrelated announcement in Ottawa on Tuesday, Ford said he wants everyone to get vaccinated, including health-care workers and eligible children.
But, he said, he understands if parents may not want their kids to get a shot.
"I want to leave that up to the parents when it comes to five to 11-year-olds," Ford said. "Do we want to get them vaccinated? Yes, but there are some parents that are vaccinated, they're a little hesitant at (their children's) age of five or six. I get it."
Pfizer's data on kids between five and 11 showed a safe and strong immune response from two doses, which are one-third the size given to teens and adults.
A recent survey by Angus Reid showed 51 per cent of parents plan to immediately vaccinate their kids when a pediatric dose becomes available, while 23 per cent said they would never give their kids a COVID-19 vaccine and 18 per cent said they would wait.
Health Minister Christine Elliott said that Ontario will be ready to roll out vaccines for five-to-11 year olds as soon as there is Health Canada approval. Plans differ between the province's 34 public health units, but schools will likely play a large role, she said.
"Not necessarily within school hours, because most parents of children of that age would like to be with their child when they receive the vaccine," Elliott said in the legislature Tuesday.
"In evenings and weekends, that's likely to be a major location. Some will be done in primary care as well."
Ford also said he wants all front-line health-care workers to be vaccinated, but he has not yet made a decision on whether to mandate shots for them.
Currently, health and education workers in Ontario must be vaccinated against COVID-19 or get tested regularly.
The premier sent a letter to the CEOs of hospitals and other health organizations this month soliciting advice on whether to enact a stricter policy.
Many hospitals that have already put such policies in place have seen on average two per cent of their staff put on leave or terminated, but Ford has said he wants to explore possible staffing ramifications at rural and northern hospitals, in particular.
Ford said he hasn't made a decision yet because not all hospitals have responded, despite an Oct. 19 deadline for replies.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 26, 2021.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press