While many Alberta parents were very happy to be able to book their younger children’s COVID-19 vaccines Wednesday morning, some wish they’d known about the 14-day recommended window between kids getting any other vaccine and their COVID-19 vaccine.
The Alberta government announced its plans Tuesday to make the pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine available to children 5-11. Parents and guardians could start booking vaccination appointments Wednesday at 8 a.m. and the first appointments will be Friday.
“If your child was recently immunized with another vaccine, such as influenza, it is also recommended to wait 14 days before having your child receive the pediatric COVID vaccine,” Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said.
“This is a precaution. While we’ve seen with older age groups taking other vaccines with the COVID vaccine, this has been safe and effective, however this spacing for 5-11 year olds is recommended to allow us to watch more closely for any potential adverse effects.”
For Cheryl Fix, that meant pushing back her son’s first COVID-19 dose.
He came home from school on Tuesday and said he’d just received his routine Grade 6 immunizations (HPV and Hepatitis B) at school that day.
Fix said she had consented to her son receiving his routine immunizations but didn’t know when they’d be given.
“I didn’t know what part of the month or what season they did those vaccines,” she said. “I actually assumed they’d be in the spring. So
I was a bit surprised.
“We were really excited to get him registered this morning for his COVID vaccine. And then, of course, realized when we read the paper — they’re actually on the site — it says when you’re registering that there should be a period of two weeks, so we had to postpone.
“I was trying to book them right away. So we postponed it for actually about two-and-a-half weeks into December to get his first COVID shot.”
While she was hoping to get her son fully vaccinated before Christmas, Fix is just grateful he’s now eligible to be immunized.
“I’m really very pleased that the COVID vaccine got approved early,” she said.
“I wasn’t expecting it honestly until March, or at least until the spring. So even having some protection with the first level of vaccine before we have (what) probably will still be a smaller Christmas than regular, at least it gives me some comfort.”
Still, if she had been given a bit of advance notice, Fix might have prioritized her son getting his COVID-19 vaccine over the other shots, at least temporarily.
“If I could have figured out how to do the COVID vaccine, I might have done that first,” Fix said.
“I’m okay to wait. I was a little surprised because I was very anxious and excited to get it done sooner. But I’d rather us follow the right health guidelines to make sure that he’s not affected negatively in any way… I would rather go by what the health officials say around the right amount of time in between.”
Fix understands the health system is slammed right now and she’s impressed it’s able to continue with routine childhood vaccines while coordinating the pediatric COVID-19 rollout at a moment’s notice.
“I’m amazed that public health can do all of this at the same time,” she said. “My hat’s off to them to get all these vaccines — the regular ones, the routine ones, the COVID ones — out.
“I can’t imagine how difficult it is. But I actually think it’s good that they continued on with the routine vaccines for kids… I think not postponing things like that is critical.”
She also praised her son’s school for keeping parents informed throughout the pandemic.
The Edmonton Catholic School District said it’s striving for even more effective communication.
“Schools are notified in advance of AHS immunization clinics. We provide the venue for the clinics and communicate dates with families on behalf of AHS through school newsletters or calendars,” spokesperson Christine Meadows said.
“We are working to find out what happened in this case, to ensure more effective communication going forward.”
A division spokesperson said Edmonton Public Schools “partners with Alberta Health Services (public health unit) to deliver immunization clinics in our division schools. Each school works directly with Alberta Health Services as part of our site-based decision-making model.
“Alberta Health Services is the lead on student immunization clinics, including communication with parents and timing of clinics in schools,” Megan Normandeau explained in an email.
On Thursday, Michael Francoeur, a communications advisor for Alberta Health, explained that in the absence of evidence, it is recommended — but not required — to wait at least 14 days between a COVID-19 pediatric vaccine and any other vaccine.
“We are making this recommendation so we can accurately monitor adverse events following COVID-19 immunization and not incorrectly attribute the event to another vaccine. It is not due to any safety concern; there is no evidence that giving two vaccines within 14 days causes any increased risk to individuals.
“Routine school immunizations can be administered regardless of spacing from COVID-19 vaccine due to the fact that both school immunizations and COVID immunizations are important and the 14-day spacing could be a barrier preventing a children from getting vaccines,” Francoeur added.
“If an individual presents at a clinic or another immunizer, individuals should not be turned away from receiving more than one vaccine on the same day or if they are within the 14-day period between the COVID-19 vaccine and another vaccine.”
Hinshaw said Tuesday that clinical trial data shows the Pfizer pediatric vaccine is 90.7 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 in children and no serious side effects were reported.
She said more than two million doses have already been administered to children 5-11 in the U.S., with few adverse effects and no safety signals reported.
The pediatric dose is one-third of the dose given to people 12 and older, she said, and the immune response in children 5-11 is comparable to that in adults.
In the past 120 days, 13.4 per cent of all COVID-19 cases in Alberta were in children 5-11, Hinshaw said Tuesday.
Of those, 26 required hospitalization, including three who were treated in ICU, she said.
Hinshaw encouraged parents or guardians with questions about vaccines and children to speak to a health professional.
A telephone town hall will be held next Tuesday to provide additional information and answer questions.
Alberta Health said as of 4 p.m. Wednesday, 49,618 pediatric vaccine appointments had been booked online.
The province has said about 391,000 Alberta children are eligible.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.