Manitoba parent Bamidele Sanusi was excited to learn a COVID-19 shot could be on the way for kids like his, especially as the province deals with an emerging fourth wave largely driven by its thousands of unvaccinated residents.

“It’s a great step in the right direction,” Sanusi said in Winnipeg on Sunday.

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“It’s high time we really took [getting vaccinated] seriously, even more than before.”

Health Canada on Saturday confirmed Pfizer and its partner BioNTech submitted initial data from their trial for a COVID-19 shot for kids earlier than expected.

A formal filing for authorization of a vaccine for kids age five to 11 is expected in mid-October, the department said.

Sanusi is looking forward to children having the option to get vaccinated, and he hopes other parents in Manitoba take the lead on teaching their kids about the shot so they’re ready to get it once that’s on the table.

“It’s important,” he said. “Parents [should] cultivate that positive attitude so that we can pass that to the kids, and the kids can also believe that it’s important to take that vaccine.”

As of Friday, 85 per cent of eligible Manitobans had gotten at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 80.7 per cent had been fully immunized, the province’s online vaccine dashboard said.

That means there are nearly 400,000 people in Manitoba who still haven’t been vaccinated against the illness, either because they won’t or because they’re not yet eligible, Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon said at a news conference Friday.

‘Game changer’

That’s why authorization of a vaccine for kids under 12 in Canada would mark “a potential game changer” for reaching herd immunity in Manitoba, said Dr. Philippe Lagacé-Wiens, a medical microbiologist and physician at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg.

“We know that we need to reach 80 to 90 per cent of our population being immune to COVID-19 before we see good control in the community,” he said.

“Having those kids, five- to 11-year-olds, also immunized will really change the dynamic of the epidemic, especially where there are cases in schools.”

Dr. Philippe Lagacé-Wiens is a medical microbiologist and physician at Winnipeg’s St. Boniface Hospital. (Philippe Lagacé-Wiens/Facebook)

Since the beginning of this school year, the province has reported more than 180 COVID-19 cases linked to over 80 schools across Manitoba, its online school cases data said on Friday. More than 85 per cent of those cases are among students.

But Lagacé-Wiens said most of that spread is happening outside of schools and pointed out very few sites have had to move to remote learning.

“Of course, that might change, and we really do need to be ready to change the education strategy should it become problematic. But I’m cautiously optimistic that with the controls that are in place, that schools will remain open for the foreseeable future,” he said.

He urged parents who are still feeling unsure about whether they want their kids to get the vaccine to learn more about it — like the fact that for kids age five to 11, the Pfizer-BioNTech trial used doses that were about one-third of what’s given to adults — from reputable sources like public health websites.

“The data is sound. The preliminary data that we’re looking at shows that the vaccine is quite safe in this age group,” he said.

“It seems that the lower dose that’s being used in the pediatric vaccine has a lower risk of side effects, as would be expected, and has a high rate of protection with antibodies against COVID-19.”

Sanusi said he hopes parents like him will choose to get their kids vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible. It’s the best way to make sure they’re protected against the illness, he said, but it’s also about protecting other people.

“This is about extending love beyond just our interests,” he said.

“Rather, [it’s about] the interest of the entire populace.”

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