OTTAWA - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says as soon as Health Canada approves the COVID-19 vaccine for kids, Pfizer will ship millions of doses to vaccinate children as young as five.
Pfizer and BioNTech asked Health Canada Monday to approve the vaccine for children between five and 11 years old but said the doses already shipped for adults are different.
The pediatric formula is for a dose one-third the size as that given to adults and teenagers.
Trudeau said he knows Canadian parents are anxious to get their children vaccinated as soon as possible but urged patience because Health Canada will take the time it needs to complete its process to ensure the data confirms the vaccine is safe and effective for children.
The United States is expected to make a decision for this age group by the end of this month. While Canada has co-operated with both the U.S. and the European Medicines Agency to have common authorization requirements for vaccines, there is no deadline in Canada for the decision to be made.
Trudeau says as soon as that happens, Pfizer will ship "enough to get all kids between five and 11 vaccinated as quickly as possible."
Public Services and Procurement Minister Anita Anand said in a statement that the first shipments will be 2.9 million doses, which is enough to give the first dose to all children in that age group.
Anand said Pfizer agreed to accelerate the deliveries, and that Canada has procured the syringes and other supplies needed to administer the doses.
She said second doses will be delivered depending on how fast the first doses are rolled out.
"This will ensure that Canadian children have vaccines when they need them without keeping doses in freezers for extended periods of time when global demand is so high," said Anand.
Pfizer and BioNTech reported that two 10 microgram doses of vaccine, given approximately 21 days apart, generated a similar antibody response in children between five and 11 years old as the adult-sized doses did when given to people between 16 and 25 years of age.
They earlier had tested three different sized doses for kids, and landed on the 10 microgram dose as the best option.
As of Wednesday, 29.6 million Canadians over the age of 12 have received at least one dose and 27.9 million of those are fully vaccinated with both required doses.
That amounts to 88.5 per cent of all eligible Canadians having at least one dose, and 83 per cent of them being fully vaccinated.
More than 414,000 Canadians have now received a third dose, mainly people with compromised immune systems and some residents in long-term care homes, for whom two doses did not give the same level of immunity as they did to most healthy adults.
Pfizer spokeswoman Christina Antoniou said the pediatric doses will come in vials of 10 doses, with a unique label for children and a different coloured cap to ensure it is differentiated from the vials of adult doses.
The adult doses are shipped in vials with six doses in each.
Moderna is also testing its vaccine on children, with results expected later this fall.
Pfizer and Moderna are both testing the vaccine on children younger than five as well, with clinical trials underway but no certainty on when the data will be ready.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 21, 2021.