Quebecers age 12 to 17 eligible soon for shots; digital vaccination proof coming next week
MONTREAL -- Quebec announced Thursday it will soon open up appointments for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to youth between the ages of 12 and 17 years old.
The decision comes after Health Canada approved use of the vaccine for children 12 and up this week.
The province's immunization committee is expected to give the OK next week, health minister Christian Dube announced at a news conference Thursday afternoon.
Dube said the plan will be to offer youth in that age bracket -- more than 500,000 kids -- a first dose of the vaccine before the end of June and a second dose by the back-to-school season in the fall.
"After completing a thorough and independent scientific review of the evidence, the department determined that this vaccine is safe and effective when used in this younger age group," said Health Canada’s chief medical adviser Dr. Supriya Sharma on Wednesday.
Health Canada authorized kids 12 and older based on the results of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Phase 3 clinical trial involving 2,260 adolescents aged 12 to 15.
"I think it's wonderful news, and it'll allow us to offer our students a school year next year that will be much more normal," Quebec's health minister said Thursday.
Logistics are still being ironed out about how this roll-out will work for children, but the head of the vaccination campaign, Daniel Pare, said the province will take a "hybrid" approach, with doses being administered in schools and in vaccination clinics.
Kids 14 and older in Quebec will not need parental consent to receive the vaccine.
So far, 40 per cent of Quebecers have received their first dose of a vaccine, thanks in part to the gradual opening of appointments to the general public.
Over the past week, 1.2 million appointments were booked and more than 400,000 doses were administered.
DIGITAL PROOF OF VACCINATION
Dube also said the province will be rolling out a digital system to offer proof of vaccination through the use of a QR code.
On May 13, Quebecers who have already received a first dose will start to gradually receive an email notification asking if they wish to receive the QR code to replace the paper-based version.
"After that, how this proof of vaccination will be used -- this is the question that we've asked Santé publique," Dube said.
The QR code will also include information about the user's second dose and it will be printable, much like a boarding pass.
EASING OF PUBLIC HEALTH RESTRICTIONS
While other provinces have started to announce plans to ease their public health rules, Quebec is still working on a plan to reopen, looking around the globe for examples to emulate.
In Saskatchewn, officials announced a three-step plan to reopen once 70 per cent of the population in specfic age groups have been vaccinated.
While such a plan has not been announced in Quebec, the province said it is looking at best practices around the world before adopting a specific plan.
Provincial officials have said the easing of restrictions could come once 75 per cent of the population have received their shot.
According to Dubé, this will become a reality sooner rather than the later, since Quebec is finally getting a steady increased supply of vaccine.
"We'll get there," Dube said.
"I'm repeating this, because every time that we can increase our rate of vaccination, we will have more flexibility with our public health measures," he said.
"The equation is simple -- we have to get vaccinated."