TORONTO — Ontario's health minister says schools and an information campaign will play important roles in the province's effort to vaccinate young children against COVID-19 once shots are approved for them — key recommendations of experts advising the government.
Christine Elliott said Wednesday that schools will be a likely setting for vaccinating kids aged five to 11, though perhaps not during school hours.
"Some of them may be on weekends or in the evenings, because I think a lot of parents — if you're speaking about vaccinating a five-year-old — most parents would want to be with their child," she said.
Elliott said the province is also working on information about the vaccines that will be available to parents, and dismissed concerns that comments about vaccine hesitancy by the premier Tuesday undermine the government's message about safety.
"We have, since the beginning. encouraged everyone who was able to receive the vaccine to do so and we're continuing that message with children aged five to 11 once the vaccine does become available, and is ... approved by Health Canada," she said.
"That doesn't deviate from our message at all. We want everyone who can receive the vaccine to do so."
Ford said that he wants children to get immunized once the shots are approved, but he understands if parents are hesitant to vaccinate their five- or six-year-old children.
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.
The Ontario science table – which has been advising the government on the pandemic – is suggesting four main strategies for increasing vaccine uptake in children and youth, including using schools as clinics, recommendations from health-care providers, reminders, and public health communication campaigns.
"Increasing COVID-19 vaccine acceptance and uptake in children and youth will help allow them to continue safely returning to pre-pandemic activities by reducing transmission, hospitalizations, and severe outcomes," they wrote in a report released late Tuesday.
The communications should address misinformation and foster positive attitudes to vaccination, they said. The imagery shouldn't be focused on needles, rather on the benefits, such as protecting grandparents, keeping schools open and participating safely in recreational activities, the experts said.
It will also be important to consider the different development stages for young children and teenagers, such as planning for scenarios in which youth want to get vaccinated but their parents do not, and the ability to consent, the report said.
Ontario reported 321 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, and nine more deaths. Elliott said 203 of those cases are in people who aren't fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status.
There are 134 people in intensive care units due to COVID-19, and 16 of those patients are people from Saskatchewan. Elliott said 118 of the people in ICUs are not fully vaccinated or have an unknown vaccination status.
Nearly 88 per cent of eligible Ontarians have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and more than 84 per cent have received both doses.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 27, 2021.
Allison Jones, The Canadian Press