Crucial time to get kids COVID vaccines with school weeks away

With children across Canada in most cases returning to the classroom in about a month, one expert says now is the time for them to get their COVID-19 vaccine, so they have some level of protection in the fall.

With children across Canada in most cases returning to the classroom in about a month, one expert says now is the time for them to get their COVID-19 vaccine, so they have some level of protection in the fall.

“Once you get vaccinated, you’ll start seeing protective immunity within two weeks and then after your second dose, you’ll start seeing that more mature immunity, so you’re still building your immunity if you start now and head into the school year and it’ll definitely be better than not having any protection,” explained Dr. Omar Khan, a professor of biomedical engineering and immunology at the University of Toronto.

“It’s a probably a great idea to get that vaccine sooner than later.”

The health agency approved vaccines for kids five to 11 years old last year, in November. Meanwhile, Moderna’s shot for children aged six months to five years was approved on July 14, 2022.

The pediatric version of the Spikevax vaccine comes in two doses, each a quarter of the size of an adult dose.

Khan wants parents, who may be hesitant, to know the vaccine is safe and that there haven’t really been any adverse reactions reported in those who’ve had it in Canada or the US

“This has already gone though clinical trials and what got us to the point where we could do clinical trials was the fact that it went through clinical trials for older people and adolescent children, and it was shown to be safe and effective. After passing all that, then it was appropriate to start looking at the pediatric cases. There is an overwhelming amount of data that it is safe. Another important thing to consider is that this pediatric vaccine has already been approved in America since June, so no safety signals, everything is good, just like what was shown in the clinical trial.”

Right now, Health Canada is reviewing a new and updated vaccine that has been adapted to the Omicron variant and it’s expected that approval will come down in the fall. However, that shot will be given to adults first.

Khan says younger children getting the current version of the vaccine will bridge that gap until the new shot is approved for them.

“What’s very important to remember is once your kids are vaccinated, they will have increased protection against Omicron because when the clinical trials happened, it happened during the time Omicron was around and it does show about a 40 percent protection against infection. But what’s really great to see is children did have high antibody levels on par with adolescents.”

He says that layer of protection will cut down on transmission, which slows the virus’ ability to get stronger and replicate.

“If kids are infected, antibodies can help you clear the infection faster and if you’re clearing infection, you’re not really spreading it to other people and that’s how we help break the cycle of transmission and that’s going to be very important, especially when you go back to school,” added Khan.

The other concern with the fall is that it mixes with cold and flu season.

Khan says it’s safe for kids to get both shots, if you so choose.

“That’s also important to consider: There are other things you can get sick with so why don’t you unburden your body by having a vaccine that protects you against something else? And that way it takes that load off of your immune system and helps you get that protective immunity much faster.”

Khan says getting vaccinated against COVID-19 can be done in conjunction with ongoing personal protective practices many have come to build into their daily routines, like mask wearing and handwashing.

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