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Children's vaccines 'crucial' to keep kids safe, reach herd immunity, says Barrie pediatrician

'Hopefully, we will see a decrease in number in infections, decrease in number of transmittable diseases among children,' says Dr. Rania Hiram

Having young children vaccinated against COVID-19 will be crucial, says a Barrie pediatrician.

The vaccine isn’t available for children under 12 years old just yet, but approval from Health Canada is expected as soon as the end of the year.

In Simcoe-Muskoka, children under 12 accounted for 31 per cent of the local cases during the week of Oct. 3, the health unit reported this week.

“I think it's definitely crucial both for keeping our kids safe but also for herd immunity,” said Dr. Rania Hiram, who has a practice on Quarry Ridge Road and is the former chief of pediatrics at Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH). “This virus is probably not going to go away.”

Children make up a large portion of the population and remain vulnerable to not just acquiring COVID-19, but also transmitting it to others. Hiram says until they’re vaccinated, it will be difficult for life to return to some semblance of normalcy.

Children have fairly robust immune systems, she added, and many display typical viral cold symptoms, like a cough or runny nose, when infected with COVID-19. Hiram says there are some rare complications and she has seen the odd severe pediatric case, although the last case she saw was back in February. 

Data coming from the United States, where children are receiving one-third of the adult dose of COVID-19 vaccine, show a near 100 per cent immune response with even fewer side effects from the adolescent population, showing it to be safe, Hiram says.

“It will also prevent infection and spread, which is very important,” she said, adding the vaccine can inhibit the virus and prevent its spread. “Hopefully, we will see a decrease in number in infections, decrease in number of transmittable diseases among children.”

It’s been estimated that at least 90 per cent of the population needs to be fully vaccinated to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19. As of Oct. 2, 81 per cent of the eligible population was fully immunized against COVID-19, representing 71 per cent of the total population.

Meanwhile, efforts are underway to test COVID-19 vaccines in children under age five.

Hiram says Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children has partnered with Moderna to run a trial on children aged six months to five years. Recruiting is now underway to immunize 3,000 patients.

That process to run the trial, including recruiting a good patient population, administering the vaccine at an interval rate and allowing time for immunity to develop as well as risks and side effects could take six months through an accelerated process, she added.

As for the age groups who have been eligible, Hiram says Ontario’s proof-of-vaccine requirement has helped to encourage all age eligible age groups to seek the COVID-19 vaccine, including teenagers.

There was concern about those aged 12 to 18 experiencing heart inflammation, but Hiram said that has proven to be quite rare and has been mild, not usually requiring hospitalization and much less severe that the myocarditis that could result in those infected with COVID-19.