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What we know about COVID-19 vaccines for kids under 5Pediatricians are hoping a vaccine for young children could be available before summer if approved by Health Canada. However, no applications have yet been received by the regulator.

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Data on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and dosage amounts coming in mid-April

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"It just takes a bit longer to train the immune system to respond appropriately to an antigen, and it's conceivable that might also weigh in."

The drugmaker added a third shot to the study, but results are not expected until late March.

Still, the FDA took the highly unusual step of urging Pfizer to apply now for a two-dose series, with a third shot potentially added later.

What is the hospitalization rate for children?

"I think there's a lot of pressure on Pfizer to submit to the FDA because there's a lot of concern about the number of children that are being hospitalized in the U.S. with COVID — and some of them with fairly serious disease," said Dr. Noni MacDonald, a pediatric vaccinologist at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

From mid-December until Jan. 7, the hospitalization rate in the youngest kids in the U.S. had surged to more than four in 100,000 children, up from 2.5 per 100,000.

But in Canada, the hospitalization rate in this age group is not as big a problem as it is in the U.S., MacDonald said.

WATCH | Pfizer's vaccine for youngsters could get approval in February, reports say:

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for kids under 5 could get approval in February: reports

23 days agoDuration 2:05U.S. reports say Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine could get emergency approval for children aged six months to five years by the end of February, much earlier than expected.(Maggie MacPherson/CBC)

A spokesperson for Pfizer Canada said it's in ongoing discussions with Health Canada about a vaccine for this age group but couldn't provide a timeline as to when it plans to apply.

Dalhousie's MacDonald said she expects the vaccine will be approved for use much quicker than those for older people because the data on its effectiveness in other age groups already exists.

"Now they're going to look at all of that carefully, but it's not a truckload of data like it would be if we were starting with a brand new vaccine first out the gate," she said.

Why should parents, guardians consider the vaccine?

Pediatricians have already heard from parents wanting to know more about the vaccine for kids under five.

Dr. Ayisha Kurji, a Saskatoon-based pediatrician and assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Saskatchewan, said that earlier in the pandemic, messaging focused on protecting adults and that the risk of severe illness in children was lower.

But as time went on and more was learned about the coronavirus and its variants, the messaging to parents changed.

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"It's still pretty mild, but it is still something that can affect them," she said.

Both Kurji and Constantinescu said it's important to relay to parents and guardians that the vaccine will protect children from COVID-19.

"Having that individual protection is important — not just in the midst of a wave, but also long term for their health and well-being," Constantinescu said. "I think parents are going to do the right thing and protect their kid with this vaccine."

Written and produced by Stephanie Dubois, with files from Christine Birak and The Associated Press


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