Oakville mayor wants timeline on when younger children in Halton can receive a COVID-19 jab

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Published September 27, 2021 at 10:28 pm

The mayor of Oakville would like an update on when Halton Region could begin giving COVID-19 vaccines to younger children.

Mayor Rob Burton  wrote in a email newsletter on Monday that he has asked when the region would be ready to do so, “as other municipalities have started to make plans in anticipation of the approval for the Pfizer vaccine to be administered to children aged 5 to 11.” The mayor was the seconder on a successful council motion last week to ask the Ford government to keep schools open during the fourth wave of the pandemic. Monday’s statement from Burton came after Toronto Public Health said that it had formed a planning group that includes health partners, school boards, community representatives and the province. The top doctors for Mississauga/Brampton, Hamilton, Ottawa and London, Ont., also said they were making arrangements.

“In her last update to Council, Halton’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. (Hamidah) Meghani, said that, pending approval, children in that cohort could receive their first shots as early as the third week of October,” Burton wrote.

‘Something is growing under the surface’: A post-Thanksgiving wave?

A vaccine, and who can received it, must be approved by Health Canada, a federal agency. Provinces, territories and their public health units then administer the doses.

Dr. Meghani’s counterpart in Toronto, Dr. Eileen de Villa, suggested Monday that vaccinating the younger school-aged children could begin by Nov. 1. In almost all likelihood, the green light will likely not come before the Oct. 9-11 Thanksgiving Day holiday weekend.

Ontario’s third wave of the pandemic escalated shortly after Easter weekend in April, when many families gathered. Only older adults, starting at age 56, were eligible to be vaccinated at that point.

Children who are too young to receive a vaccine have been attending school for almost three weeks, many in classrooms that contain up to 30 people. There has been an investment in improving school ventilation and parents are expected to screen children for symptoms each day.

The school reopening plan put in place by Minister of Education Stephen Lecce and medical officer of health, Dr. Kieran Moore, does not include asymptomatic testing, or funding for rapid antigen testing.

The former seems worrisome. An article recently published by Nature.com explains why the current Delta variant is so tough to contain. People who are infected are more likely to spread Delta before they show symptoms. This conclusion was formed by researchers who analyzed an outbreak in Guangdong, China.

Indeed, the co-chair of Ontario’s modelling consensus table said that Ontario could have a bump in cases in a few weeks.

“The situation is so very fragile,” said Dr. Beate Sander, a professor at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“It’s stable, it’s not exactly decreasing. So things could turn really quickly. You just need to look at Alberta, to look at how quickly things could change.”

Sander said Ontario likely has not yet seen the rise in cases that schools will spark. Sander said because most of a child’s contacts — such as their parents — are likely vaccinated, if a child gets COVID-19, it would take the virus longer to find someone else to infect.

“The rate of infection has been increasing quite a lot in the five-to-11-year-old kids,” Sander said.

“Something is growing under the surface and because it’s relatively small numbers compared to the overall population, it’s going to take a while to go through.”

Another reality is that colder autumn weather, and then the winter, will also force more gatherings and activities indoors and drive transmission.

“We’re just right at that point where things could flip and we could be out of balance,” Sander said. “We do not want to open up anything else.”

Oakville, like most of Halton Region, has had above-average vaccine uptake among children aged 12 to 17. The completion rate is 86 per cent, and 92 per cent of the cohort has at least started their vaccine series.

Milton is tops in the region at 90 per cent and 96, respectively.

Generally, public health units in Southern Ontario are faring better at vaccinating adolescents and teenagers than they have at vaccinating younger adults aged 18 to 39. That might have changed with the Sept. 22 announcement of proof-of-vaccination requirements.

Meantime, Burton shared news of another walk-in clinic vaccination slated for this week.

A clinic will be held Thursday (Sept. 30) from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Clearview Christian Reformed Church (2300 Sheridan Garden Dr.). The Pfizer mRNA vaccine will be available to anyone old to receive one. There is a minimum 21-day waiting period for anyone who has had their first jab.

— With files from The Canadian Press

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