Children under 12 now make up the largest number of new COVID-19 infections as health officials say vaccinations for the age group are still weeks away.
Infections in that age group surpassed those of all other age groups for the first time in the fourth wave of the pandemic, Public Health Agency of Canada officials revealed Friday.
“This is why, beyond protecting individuals against severe outcomes and easing the strain on the health system, increasing vaccination coverage across the community is also important for helping to limit spread to children who are too young to be vaccinated, and thereby to reduce spread into schools and beyond,” officials said in a briefing note.
“In particular, for young adults who are parents or close contacts of children under 12 years of age, getting vaccinated, is an important way to contribute to their protection against COVID-19 and to help keep them in school and doing the activities they love.”
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The majority of cases among children do not involve severe illness, officials said. Less than one per cent of cases in children and youth up to 19 years of age have been severely sick. To date, more than 350,000 cases have been reported in that age range.
Many Canadian parents have been waiting for Health Canada to approve a COVID-19 vaccine for children under 12. Pfizer has submitted its vaccine for five to 11 year olds, and Dr. Theresa Tam said approval might come within weeks.
“I would say to all parents that Health Canada regulators are working extremely hard to prioritize the review for this vaccine, they need to do due diligence but it will be in weeks and not months,” Tam said Friday, clarifying an incorrect Twitter post published by Health Canada earlier this week, which was later taken down.
During the fourth wave, a majority of outbreaks in schools and daycares across the country were small in size and involved children under 12.
However, the frequency of those outbreaks appears to follow trends within the community, with the number of cases peaking at almost the same time as community incidents in waves three and four, officials added.
“Encouragingly, several key features of outbreaks involving children indicate sensitive monitoring and a positive impact of vaccination and infection prevention and control measures that are being employed to keep these settings safer, while striving to keep them open for the benefit of children,” officials said.
Most outbreaks among young children have been small, involving fewer than four cases. There were fewer school outbreak-associated cases occurring in the 12-to-17-year age group, which is reporting more vaccination.
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Overall, more than 58.9 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered across Canada since vaccination began in mid-December. Roughly 89 per cent of the eligible population are partially vaccinated, and about 84 per cent of the eligible population is fully inoculated.
More to come.
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