As thousands of Saskatchewan children receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine, many parents are eager to book the second appointment.
Despite different guidelines across the country, doctors in Saskatchewan recommend that children wait a little longer between doses.
“As a parent and physician, we plan to vaccinate our five-year-old at an eight-week interval, not sooner,” says infectious disease specialist Dr. Alex Wong. “That first dose will provide reasonable protection after a few weeks with how robust we expect children’s immune responses to be.”
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that children wait at least eight weeks between doses, as studies suggest that a longer interval leads to a more robust, long-lasting immune response.
However, Health Canada approved Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine for two doses 21 days apart.
Consistent with NACI’s position, the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) recommends that children wait at least eight weeks before receiving their second dose, but parents have the option of vaccinating their children after three weeks.
“The eight weeks support the immune system’s ability, especially in this age group, to work at its highest functioning level and have the most protective effect against the COVID-19,” said Laveena Tratch, head of vaccine at SHA Regina. area.
According to Tratch, the SHA’s booking system isn’t set up for second doses yet. She said parents should only give their children a double dose before eight weeks if they get approval from their GP.
Provincial governments in British Columbia, Alberta, and Ontario all require an interval of at least eight weeks between pediatric doses. In Manitoba, officials recommend waiting eight weeks, but parents can book their child’s second dose as early as four weeks.
Wong said it can be difficult for the average person to interpret all of this information. He added that parents should listen to the advice of medical health experts and GPs.
“Try not to think about some of these things,” Wong said. “We have to rely on the people who know what they’re doing to make good public health decisions for us.”
Early adopters lead to high adoption
On Saturday, 31,698 children ages five to 11 have been vaccinated in Saskatchewan since Nov. 24.
Tratch said she is pleased with the high adoption and smooth rollout so far.
“This is very similar to all of our other past rollouts,” Tratch said, adding that there are no concerns that supply will not meet demand. “You always get those real early adopters, those people who were excited, waiting and really longing to get their vaccine.”
She said the health authority is aiming to make children feel “empowered” when they get their vaccine.
Children have the opportunity to take notes and draw drawings after their admission, which are then hung on the walls of the vaccine clinic.
“They recognize, at ages five to 11, that they have the power to make change,” Tratch said. “They have the power to make a difference in the trajectory of the (fourth wave).”
Kids draw pictures and write messages after getting their COVID-19 vaccine (Courtesy: Saskatchewan Health Authority)