Remarks from the Chief Public Health Officer on COVID-19, November 19, 2021

November 19, 2021 | Ottawa, ON | Public Health Agency of Canada

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to create stress and anxiety for many Canadians, particularly those who do not have ready access to their regular support networks. Through the Wellness Together Canada online portal, people of all ages across the country can access immediate, free and confidential mental health and substance use supports, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Nationally, daily case counts appear to be declining slowly, but with
significant regional variation in disease activity and high infection rates
persisting in many areas of the country. Over the most recent 7-day period,
an average of almost 2,400 new cases were reported daily across Canada.
Severe illness trends are also slowly declining, but some areas are still
struggling at or above critical care capacity limits. As noted, unless we
can keep infection rates down, severe illness trends could begin to rise
again. Over the past week, on average over 1,680 people with COVID-19 were
being treated in our hospitals each day, including 487 in intensive care
-and 25 deaths were reported daily.

As the pandemic has progressed, we’ve learned, honed and strengthened ways
to manage as well as make headway against the formidable challenges of this
virus. Canada’s COVID-19 vaccines continue to provide excellent protection
against severe illness and – although there is some evidence of decreased
protection against infection over time – we are continuing to make
important advancements in vaccine programs to preserve and extend their
protection and help reduce spread as well.

Over the past several months, regulatory approvals from Health Canada and
recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, or
NACI, have allowed provinces and territories to adjust targeted vaccination
programs to ensure that key populations can achieve and maintain protection
against COVID-19.

Approval of a pediatric COVID-19 vaccine has been long anticipated. Today,
the new lower dose pediatric formulation of the Comirnaty COVID-19 vaccine
by Pfizer-BioNTech is being authorized by Health Canada as Canada’s first
COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 5 to 11 years. And NACI is
recommending that a complete two-dose series may be offered to children in
this age group who do not have contraindications to the vaccine. As well,
based on emerging evidence from adult immunization, which suggests longer
intervals result in a stronger, longer lasting immune response -and may
lower the risk of myocarditis and pericarditis-, NACI is also recommending
a dosing interval of 8 weeks or more between the first and second dose.

As our Health Canada colleagues have indicated, the new lower dose
pediatric formulation is 10 micrograms compared to the 30-microgram dose
for adults and adolescents aged 12 years or over. Data shows that the
10-microgram dose works very well at preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in
children aged 5 to 11 years, with an estimated efficacy of 90.7%. This is
very similar to the level of protection achieved with the 30-microgram dose
in adolescents and adults.

Given the current and prevailing epidemiology of COVID-19 in Canada –
where incidence rates have remained highest in children aged 5 to 11 years
for most of the 4th wave – today’s announcements on the
availability and use of the pediatric formulation provides a welcome
additional prevention option. Following excellent uptake of the
30-microgram dose among older children, aged 12 to 17 years, there has been
a notable reduction in infection rates and outbreak-associated cases in
that age group. As such, it is hoped that the new pediatric programs will
have similar success in younger children and contribute to increased
population coverage overall.

At this time, NACI recommends that young children receive the 10-microgram
Comirnaty vaccine at least 14 days before or after receiving another
vaccine. This precaution is being made to help determine if a side effect
that may arise following immunization is due to the COVID-19 vaccine versus
another vaccine. However, there may be circumstances when it is necessary
for a dose of the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine to be given at the same time
as another vaccine, in which case a healthcare provider can help with

To date, no serious safety concerns have been identified in the clinical
trials. Going forward, we will be closely monitoring domestic rollout of
the pediatric program in Canada and continuing to review accumulating
evidence from international programs and studies. During this time, it is
very important that we support children and their caregivers in making
informed decisions about COVID-19 vaccination, while respecting their
choices and pace of decision-making.

It is perhaps very fitting that tomorrow is National Child Day and World Children’s Day, dedicated to celebrating child and youth rights.
This year is an opportunity to say a special thank you to children and
youth for the sacrifices they’ve made during the pandemic, and to recognize
their resilience. UNICEF Canada is encouraging Canadians to Go Blue to say,
‘thank you!’ Join in, as we show our kids how important they are in shaping
their now and the future. From people to places, we can all shine blue for
them, including monuments in Canada like Niagara Falls and towers in
Toronto and Calgary, and more all around the world.

Read my backgrounder to access COVID-19 Information and Resources, including information on vaccination and ways to reduce your risk of
infection and spreading the virus to others.

Media Relations

Public Health Agency of Canada