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Canada could authorize vaccine for kids 5-11 in ‘one to two weeks’

Under-12 age group continues to have Canada’s highest incidence rates of COVID-19 across all ages

Health Canada says a decision on whether to authorize a COVID-19 vaccine for children will come “in the next one to two weeks,” leaving open the possibility that some kids could be at least partially protected by Christmas.

Canada’s chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma said in a conference call with reporters Friday that the regulator is “actively continuing” its review of the Pfizer-BioNtech jab for children aged five to 11, which was authorized for use in the United States last week.

Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s chief medical officer, said the under-12 age group continues to have the highest incidence rates of COVID-19 across all age groups in the country.

COVID-19 has typically shown to be mild in children since the pandemic began, but some have had serious illness.

Tam noted an 11 per cent increase in new COVID-19 cases in Canada this week compared to last week, with 2,500 new cases reported daily.

More than 1,800 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized, she said, with 528 in intensive care units and an average of 22 deaths reported daily.

Tam also said the country’s requirement for a negative COVID-19 test for travellers re-entering Canada was still under review.

Federal Conservative leader Erin O’Toole called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to remove the “pre-departure PCR testing requirements” for fully vaccinated travellers returning over the land border, asking the government in a statement Friday to accept rapid antigen test results instead.

Tam said in the news conference that the requirement is for a “molecular test,” which can include a lab-based PCR or other tests that can offer results more quickly. Health Canada’s website says rapid antigen tests are not accepted.

More than 28 million people, or 85 per cent of the eligible population over age 12, are now fully vaccinated, Tam said, though “sizable gaps in vaccine coverage” remain.

She said that includes more than five million eligible people who have not yet received a vaccine, and more than 4.3 million children under the age of 12.

Also Friday, Health Canada approved the use of Moderna’s mRNA vaccine for booster shots for adults 18 and older, to be used at least six months after the second shot. The Moderna booster is a half-dose of the regular vaccine.

—By Melissa Couto Zuber, The Canadian Press

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A vial of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 12 years old sits ready for use at a vaccination site in Fort Worth, Texas, Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-LM Otero