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With more than half of adults vaccinated in Canada, campaigns move to teens and children

BY Ben Powless Jun 5, 2021

Canada passed a landmark in vaccination distribution, as over half of all eligible adults received their first vaccination, with 4.5% of the population being fully vaccinated. 

The news comes as Canada’s National Advisory Council on Immunization is now recommending the Pfizer-BioNTech be used to vaccinate anyone age 12-15, after it was already approved for anyone 16 and older. 

Health Canada approved the vaccine in early May for youth between 12 and 15, after a clinical trial showed it was safe and was 100% effective against Covid-19 in that age group. 

In the United States, Moderna announced the completion of a clinical trial that involved 3,700 children aged 12 to 17 and is applying for approval to distribute to this cohort. The vaccine may also become available in Canada for youth in that age range. 

Pfizer and Moderna are both testing vaccines in even younger children, from six months up to 11 years. Results from those clinical trials are expected by the fall, which, if successful, could see vaccines reaching virtually the entire population. 

However, there were still ongoing delays with Moderna vaccine shipments from the US. Canadian officials announced that they expected to receive a total of 40 million doses by the end of June – about 10 million fewer than planned. 

In Quebec, Premier François Legault announced that many of the strictest restrictions in the province are starting to be lifted, as health officials pointed to lowered case counts. Average daily case counts have fallen to less than 500 in the province. 

The government lifted the curfew across Quebec on May 28. Meanwhile, Quebec City, Montérégie, Lanaudière, Outaouais, and the Laurentians moved from Red to Orange. Only Montreal, Laval, Montmagny, the Eastern Townships and Lower Saint-Lawrence remained in the Red zone. 

However, Legault said he expected all of Quebec to be out of the highest pandemic alert level by June 7. That means that restaurants, dining rooms, gyms and other facilities will be able to reopen, and in-school instruction for high school students in Grades 9-11 will resume. 

As of May 21, Quebec announced that teens aged 12-17 are eligible for vaccination. The campaign will begin with family drive-through sites in Montreal, and clinic appointments starting June 4. 

The province will also work with schools to organize a vaccine campaign June 7-18, when public health teams will visit schools to administer vaccinations or have shuttle buses taking students to nearby vaccination centres. Students under 14 require parental consent to get the vaccine. 

The 12-to-17 cohort represents about 530,000 children, or 6% of Quebec’s population. Quebec has managed thus far to inoculate 61% of the population, moving faster than the rest of the country.

In Eeyou Istchee, 10,917 people had been vaccinated with at least one dose, while 8,199 had received two doses of the vaccine. 

Cree health officials said that vaccination appointments were now available through Clic-Santé’s website, where those who received a vaccination would receive Quebec’s vaccination proof with a QR code. Vaccine recipients could also request a proof of vaccination through other means, including an official printed certificate.

There were no new reported cases and no active cases reported in Eeyou Istchee and Abitibi-Témiscamingue. Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean reported 11 new cases, for a total of 164 active cases. There were no new cases reported in Nord-du-Québec, but there are still seven active cases. 

Across Canada, only 1,705 new cases were reported May 24, the lowest new case count since October. However, it wasn’t initially clear if that represented delays in reporting due to the long weekend.

Overall, new cases declined nationally 31% since mid-May, with deaths down 5%. In total, 1.36 million cases had been reported in Canada, and 25,264 deaths. 

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Ben Powless is a Kanien'kehá:ka and Anishnabek writer and photographer, currently living in Ottawa. He has a degree in Human Rights, Indigenous and Environmental Studies from Carleton University.