Health Canada could approve a COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 later this month, but for some families, that isn’t soon enough.
Vancouver resident Geoff Berner is taking his eight-year-old daughter south of the border, where the Pfizer-BioNtech COVID-19 vaccine is available to kids under the age of 12. On Nov. 22, she’ll be vaccinated at a Walmart in Bellingham, Wash.
“We’re getting the vaccine early because we don’t feel it’s safe for our kid to be in B.C.,” said Berner.
He criticizes the provincial government for easing restrictions, despite the coronavirus still spreading and the death toll growing.
“Every time they manage to get the numbers down, they just open more things,” he said. “They opened (Rogers Arena) and have 18,000 people drinking beer with no masks, then turn around and say, ‘Keep your Christmas gatherings as small as you can.’”
At least one family doctor doesn’t see an issue with concerned parents getting their kids vaccinated stateside, as long as they’re aware of the implications.
“It’s not as simple as getting in the car, crossing the border, getting your kid vaccinated, then coming home,” said Dr. Anna Wolak.
Anyone who crosses into the United States will need to show proof of a negative PCR test upon returning to Canada. Each test could cost upwards of $100. Additionally, federal law requires children under 12 to stay home from school or day care for 14 days after their arrival.
It’s not an issue for Berner, who’s homeschooling his child because of concerns around the spread of COVID-19 in schools.
“If the government did more to protect children, like brought in proper ventilation in schools and did rapid testing and things that work in other places, we wouldn’t need to run across the border to get the vaccine,” he said.
Last week, Canada’s chief medical advisor Dr. Supriya Sharma said Health Canada is actively continuing its review of the Pfizer-BioNtech vaccine for children, which was authorized for use in the U.S. earlier this month.
The under-12 population, the only group ineligible for COVID-19 vaccines, continues to have the highest incidence rate of the virus nationwide.
Wolak is hopeful that once the vaccine is approved, it will be made available immediately.
“Parental anxiety is heightened at the moment. We need to get (vaccination for children under 12) addressed, so we know they are protected and parents can breathe a sigh of relief,” she said.
With files from The Canadian Press
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