Canada starts vaccinating children 5-11 years old against Covid-19

MONTREAL (AFP) – Canada began immunising children aged five to 11 against Covid-19 on Wednesday (Nov 24), joining a handful of nations including Israel and the United States in offering shots to this age group.

At Montreal’s convention centre, a few dozen youngsters were among the first to receive the Pfizer doses authorised since last Friday for this age group.

To help ease their fears of needles, additional measures have been taken, such as posting stickers of unicorns or hockey players on partitions between nursing stations, longer appointments than for adults, and a dog to pet.

“I was not really scared, but I was stressed,” Victor, 10, told AFP, gripping a colouring page with the words “bravo, you received your vaccine” in his hands.

At his side, his mother Mathilde explains that he felt “excluded” from his family, being the only one who had not yet been vaccinated against Covid-19.

For her, having her son vaccinated made sense, if only to “be together” and “be able to hug her grandparents” without fear.

“We are privileged, frankly,” said Dr Yanouchka Labrousse, a doctor and mother of two vaccinated children.

Appointments for children in Quebec have been spiking since the government gave the green light to paediatric vaccination, “which is an indicator that the response of the population is really excellent”, commented Mr Jean-Nicolas Aube, spokesman for the Montreal health authorities.

On Twitter, Quebec Premier Francois Legault was delighted on Wednesday morning to note that 115,300 appointments were made in a few hours. “It is together that we can make a difference!” he said.

In neighbouring Ontario, a handful of children were vaccinated on Tuesday in Toronto due to an early delivery of doses. Canada’s most populous province is set to officially begin its campaign on Thursday.

“This is a first in Canada and the start of thousands of kids in Toronto getting the best protection possible against Covid-19 over the coming weeks,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a statement.

On Wednesday, the mayor appeared at a clinic alongside Polkaroo, a green kangaroo-like character from a local children’s television show, to announce that more than 31,000 children’s vaccine appointments had been logged so far.

Canada has one of the highest vaccination rates in the world against Covid-19, with more than 85 per cent of people over the age of 12 having rolled up their sleeves twice.

Health Canada on Wednesday also approved the use of Johnson & Johnson’s single-dose vaccine for people aged 18 years or older.

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