Children under 12 years of age are proving particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 just as pharmaceutical companies are testing vaccines for that age group in efforts to have them approved.
Dr. Charles Gardner, medical officer of health for the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit, says children under 12 now account for 31 per cent — or 41 of the 132 — of COVID-19 cases reported in Simcoe-Muskoka during the week of Oct. 3.
“They cannot be immunized. They have remained a vulnerable group during the pandemic,” he said during a media briefing Wednesday. “In particular during this fourth wave, we’ve seen a higher proportion of our cases being among children and among other people who are not immunized.”
Twenty-six of those cases, or 63 per cent, are related to school outbreaks, Gardner added.
Close-contact transmission, mostly in the household or through a friend, account for 32 per cent of those cases, and five per cent are associated with travel.
Gardner says a clear pattern has emerged showing that the vast majority of cases are now the unvaccinated, including young children.
“It really tells you that if we didn’t have the high vaccination rate that we have now, we’d see many, many more cases than we are now,” he said, again encouraging those eligible for the vaccine to access it.
“It’s also important that they do so to protect others who can’t, such as the young children," Gardner added.
Parents, caregivers and others who work with young children can help protect them by getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Health Canada has already received some data from clinical trials for children aged five to 11 for Pfizer, he said, although there hasn’t been a complete submission. The remainder of the information and approval is expected to occur in November. That would be followed by how it will be administered.
Gardner says a different formulation is being developed and children would not receive the same vials as adults.
“My expectation would be later in the year or early in 2022,” he said.
At that point, he says he would urge parents to have their children immunized.
Pfizer announced in September that in a pivotal trial it found the vaccine to be safe for children aged five to 11, and that it showed “robust neutralizing antibody responses” for those receiving two shots.
Other companies are testing that age group as well.
Pfizer had determined the pediatric dose to be one-third of the amount given to teens and adults.