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Shipments of COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 arrive in Atlantic Canada

FREDERICTON — Health officials across the Atlantic region on Tuesday said the newly arrived COVID-19 vaccines for children would start to be administered by the end of the week, and they offered assurances to parents that the doses were safe and effe
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FREDERICTON — Health officials across the Atlantic region on Tuesday said the newly arrived COVID-19 vaccines for children would start to be administered by the end of the week, and they offered assurances to parents that the doses were safe and effective.

In New Brunswick, children aged five to 11 could start getting vaccinated on Friday at clinics operated by regional health authorities, Health Minister Dorothy Shephard told reporters. Two doses eight weeks apart are recommended, she added.

"We have seen increased cases of COVID-19 in children in New Brunswick in recent months," Shephard said Tuesday. "Approximately 30 per cent of cases reported since the beginning of September are among the youth under 20."

Fredericton pediatrician Dr. Rachel Ouellette told reporters that parents who are hesitant to have their children vaccinated need to know that young people can get gravely ill or die after contracting COVID-19.  

"As a mother of young children myself, I am so eager to get them vaccinated as soon as I can," she said, noting that the vaccine has proven to be over 90 per cent effective in children. "I want to assure all parents the COVID-19 vaccine has been thoroughly tested and has been found to be safe for children."

Ouellette said she often encounters children who are scared of needles. "I recommend bringing your child's favourite toy to their appointment. You can also offer them some control by choosing which arm."

Health officials in New Brunswick reported 75 new cases of COVID-19 Tuesday and one more death attributed to the novel coronavirus. Officials said a person in their 60s died in the Fredericton region. 

New Brunswick has 665 active reported cases of COVID-19 and 45 people hospitalized with the disease, including 18 in intensive care. Nine patients with COVID-19 contracted the virus while hospitalized for other reasons, due to outbreaks in units at The Moncton Hospital.

Health authorities in Newfoundland and Labrador said the province's first shipment of pediatric COVID-19 vaccines was expected to arrive as early as Wednesday night, and more were to arrive on Friday. Vaccinations at community clinics would begin as early as Saturday, Health Minister John Haggie told reporters Tuesday in St. John's. Vaccinations at schools would begin next week, he added.

Chief medical officer of health Dr. Janice Fitzgerald said Newfoundland and Labrador was expected to receive enough vaccines by the end of the week to administer one dose to every child in the province aged between five and 11.

"There have been no pediatric hospital admissions due to COVID-19 in our province,"  Fitzgerald told reporters Tuesday. "However, other jurisdictions with overall higher case rates of COVID-19 have seen an increase in cases and more severe illness in children, associated with the Delta variant."   

Providing vaccinations for children is an important step toward the province's goal of having 90 per cent of all residents fully immunized against COVID-19, she added.

In Prince Edward Island, the first of five community-based clinics is scheduled to open Friday in Summerside, while school-based clinics are to open in January for students in grades 4 to 6. Dr. Heather Morrison, the province's chief medical officer, told a news conference in Charlottetown that the fourth wave of COVID-19 has been particularly hard on children.

"Having children vaccinated will be an additional layer of protection for families and the Island as a community," she said Tuesday. 

"Now is the time to begin vaccinating children to give them extra protection against COVID-19. … While we are weary of COVID-19 and are ready to be done with it, COVID-19 is not done with us," Morrison added.

Also on Tuesday, Morrison reported seven new cases of COVID-19 in the province, all of them involving people over the age of 18. The Island has 28 active reported cases. Morrison said officials reported 17 new cases last week alone — the second highest weekly count since the pandemic was declared in March 2020. Twelve new cases have been reported so far this week.   

Morrison also raised concerns about the 887 active cases in the Atlantic region. On Tuesday, health officials in Nova Scotia reported another 29 new cases of COVID-19. The province has 184 active reported cases and 18 people hospitalized with the disease, including six in intensive care.

Nova Scotia officials said another staff member at East Cumberland Lodge, a long-term care home in Pugwash, N.S., has tested positive for COVID-19. A total of 32 residents and 11 staff members at the home have tested positive, and three residents have died.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2021.

— With files from Michael MacDonald in Halifax and Sarah Smellie in St. John's.

Kevin Bissett, The Canadian Press