B.C.'s top doctor says the province will take a "broad-based approach" to vaccinating younger children against coronavirus.
Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry told reporters in a press briefing Tuesday (Oct. 12) that communities with higher transmission risk will be highlighted but that the plan will ensure access for all B.C. children.
"There [are] about 340,000 children between five and 11 across British Columbia," she noted.
When a vaccine is available for children, health officials will use several approaches but doses likely won't be administered be in physicians' offices, explained Henry.
Earlier this month, Pfizer, which makes the vaccine marketed under the new brand name Comirnaty, submitted to Health Canada its data on trials of the vaccine on children aged five to 11. Approval is anticipated as soon as the middle of this month.
Health officials are still waiting for details of whether the vaccine is going to be "fridge stable" and for how long.
"We have had some early indications [that] it might be, but right now we're hearing that it will need to be transported frozen and it will have a limited time in the fridge," she said.
Ensuring that every dose of vaccine each child receives is entered into the provincial immunization registry will also be an integral part of the plan, added Henry. "And I know there's been a few challenges, but our BC Vaccine Card is a good example of that...we know that that works because it is able to get that information on an individual basis."
The immunization registry is vital to the plan as the province relies on it to monitor the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.
Currently, B.C. does not have a way for physicians' offices to enter the information directly into the immunization registry.
"However, we do know that physicians are really great at giving immunizations to children and they've been a huge part of our mass immunization clinics."
It is unclear at this point if B.C. will offer COVID-19 vaccines to children in the schools.
Health officials are looking at different approaches across the province, such as administering vaccines in remote communities.
"We may be able to go in and offer, for example, a booster dose...making sure as well that we offer first and second doses for adults at the same time as being able to offer vaccination for younger children and do a whole community approach.
"We know that was very effective for many First Nations and other smaller and more remote communities."
In regard to the BC Vaccine Card program, the health officer said it likely won't apply to children.
"The BC Vaccine Card is not meant to be a permanent thing," she noted, adding that the program is a tool to lower transmission but that it isn't meant to be a long-term policy.
Henry also stated that a new health order requiring children ages five and up to wear masks in public indoor places goes into effect Tuesday.