Some Canadian parents say they’ve been left behind as they wait on Health Canada to authorize vaccines for children under five years old.
“It’s upsetting to see the whole world moving on and forgetting about all of the littles, basically,” said Jaimie-Lyn Oldfield from Kingston, Ont.
She said her family has made sacrifices to protect her nearly three-year-old daughter Rosslyn from contracting COVID-19.
“We hardly see her grandparents,” she said. “Everyone else got vaccinated and it’s really disheartening and upsetting when they’re like ‘OK, we’re going to remove all of these masking mandates.'”
Health Canada still reviewing vaccine for young kids
On April 28, Moderna submitted its application to both Health Canada and the FDA for approval of a vaccine to protect children between six months and five years old.
On June 21, the U.S. began vaccinating small children after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency use of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines in children as young as six months old, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended use of the vaccines in this age group.
Although younger people who get COVID-19 often have milder symptoms, according to the Canadian Pediatric Society, getting vaccinated “helps protect children and youth from serious infection.”
On June 17, Dr. Howard Njoo, Canada’s deputy chief public health officer, confirmed that Health Canada had received an application from Moderna but not from Pfizer-BioNTech for the under-six age group.
Although he doesn’t speak for Health Canada, Njoo said authorization for the Moderna pediatric vaccine could happen “in the coming weeks” but no other details or timeline have been made public since then.
On June 22, B.C. Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told CBC Radio’s On The Coast she believes it could be approved soon.
“I fully expect that Health Canada will have a recommendation on that within the next couple of weeks hopefully by early July and then it will be available for young people,” she said.
Some crossing the border into U.S. to get vaccine
Before the pandemic, Oldfield worked as a teacher at a private career college. She decided to stay home and care for her daughter, putting on hold plans she and her husband had to save for a house.
Oldfield said she and her husband have discussed driving to the United States to get their daughter vaccinated.
Many members of an online Facebook group, Canadians for under-5 COVID Access, say they are doing the same. Some parents say they are crossing the border and making appointments at U.S. pharmacies and clinics.
Rachel Matthews lives in Dartmouth, N.S. Last fall, she felt it was safe enough to let her four-year-old son, Rowan Rogers, attend preschool. But that changed when Omicron spiked.
“It really felt like the government decided it was OK for most of us to get it now because most of us are vaccinated. And it was like, well my son isn’t. So that has been a challenge,” she said.
Matthews said her son is at a high risk of developing juvenile diabetes, a condition which the CDC found increased in some after getting COVID-19. Despite the family’s precautions, her teen daughter and partner still got COVID-19.
Laurie Ducharme lives in Waterloo, Ont., and worked with seniors in an adult day home before the pandemic.
She’s been waiting on a vaccination for her two-year-old son, Logan. Her family has remained cautious through the pandemic, limiting their contact with people and attending church remotely.
“I guess what hurts is that everyone else in society is moving on and [we] feel kind of left behind a little bit, that people just don’t care,” she said. “I don’t want to gamble with my son’s health.”
‘Frustrating to be in this limbo’
Emily Mousseau lives in Hamilton, Ont., and her seven-year-old daughter is vaccinated, but her four-year-old and one-year-old are not eligible. Worried about infecting her unvaccinated children, she and her husband decided to have their older daughter continue virtual learning.
She said news that vaccinations are approved for younger children in the U.S. brought mixed emotions.
“I’m thrilled for them but devastated for us. It’s been very frustrating to be in this limbo,” said Mousseau.
Mousseau said she thinks her kids would probably be fine if they got COVID-19 but the uncertainty around long COVID-19 is a big worry.
“It feels urgent to us and there doesn’t seem to be any sense of urgency from the government perspective.”
Few details yet on rollout from provinces
In Nova Scotia, a spokesperson said the province is awaiting details from Ottawa.
“The federal government is responsible for vaccine procurement, shipping to provinces and regulatory approval,” Marla MacInnis wrote in an email to CBC News.
“As the vaccine is approved and recommendations for COVID-19 vaccines for children under 5 are made, we are prepared to act on these recommendations quickly. We will continue to use our pharmacy model as the primary method of delivering these vaccines.”
In New Brunswick, provincial officials say they are preparing to vaccinate children under five but no other details, such as where the shots will be available or who will administer them, are available yet.
“Final decisions will be made after Health Canada has given approval to the vaccine,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement to CBC News. “This includes reviewing a statement from NACI and local considerations.”
In Manitoba,a survey is currently underway to seeking input from the public on the province’s plans to vaccinate children under the age of five.