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Manitoba sticks with 8-week interval between COVID-19 shots for kids 5-11

Manitoba continues to recommend that children ages 5 to 11 wait eight weeks between the first and second doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, according to expert advice.

When vaccinations for this age group began in November, public health officials said that with the exception of children living in First Nations, most children should wait two months between doses to gain maximum immunity.

Then the highly contagious variant of Omicron spread to the county, driving up the number of cases and leaving parents wondering if their children should get second doses sooner.

Last week, Dr. Joss Reimer, medical chief of the Manitoba Vaccine Implementation Task Force, said the province will wait to hear from the National Immunization Advisory Committee, as well as the Manitoba Pediatric Vaccine Advisory Committee.

Both organizations continue to advise an eight-week wait between doses, the county said in a news release Wednesday.

Reimer acknowledged that parents may be concerned about waiting two months between doses, especially since all K-12 students are scheduled to return to in-person classes on Monday, even as COVID-19-related hospitalizations rise.

“Children who receive a single dose are not without protection,” she said during a COVID-19 update Wednesday afternoon. “A recent dose of vaccine, even if it’s your first, will still trigger an immune response.”

Dr. Joss Reimer, medical chief of the Manitoba Vaccine Implementation Task Force, says a single dose is still very useful in protecting children from severe outcomes of COVID-19. (John Woods/The Canadian Press)

Reimer says people who take a single dose are three times less likely to be hospitalized or end up in intensive care units than their unvaccinated counterparts.

Research has found that children are less likely to have severe COVID-19 outcomes than adults, so you believe a single dose will prevent the majority of severe illness in children.

She adds that vaccinating children recently helps, too.

“We know that protection is greatest between about two weeks to two months after receiving a dose, which is the schedule our children are facing now,” she said.

Watch | Dr. Joss Rimmer on the decision to stick with the 8-week period:

Why Manitoba recommends 8 weeks between doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages 5 to 11

Even in the middle of Omicron, Dr. Joss Reimer recommends eight weeks between doses for children. Here’s why. 2:06

County clinics, physician offices, pharmacies, community clinics, and public health will continue to recommend this time frame.

However, in some circumstances it may be possible to shorten the time between the first and second doses for this age group to less than 21 days.

Parents can discuss their concerns with their family doctor or pediatrician to determine next steps for those who want an early second dose.

Vaccines for children under five aren’t likely until later this year: Reimer

Remer said part of the reason the NACI and the Pediatric Vaccine Advisory Committee have stuck to the eight-week recommendation between doses is that it is unknown how long Omicron will be the predominant variant in the county.

“We don’t know when, if, or what kind of variant may be circulating in our communities in the future,” she said.

“While there is no doubt that we want to protect children from Omicron, we are also trying to think about how we can give them the best possible protection in the coming months.”

Reimer also said Wednesday that children under five likely won’t be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine until 2022.

Pfizer-BioNTech found that children in that age group did not have as strong an immune response to two doses of its vaccine as those five and older.

The company is adjusting its clinical trial to add a third dose, while Moderna is also working on a vaccine for children under six. Reemer said no results have yet been reported.

As of Wednesday, more than half of Manitoba’s children ages 5 to 11 had received their first vaccine dose, for a total of 63,247.

Reimer says vaccine clinics will pop up in schools once children return to in-person learning.

She hopes more parents will enroll their children for the first dose to ensure they are protected.

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