After Kari Raymer Bishop’s eight-year-old son received his first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine last month, she began calling friends across the border in Lewiston, New York for help. to find a pharmacy in the United States. I might bring him in for a second dose after three weeks.

“We were just trying to figure out what we were going to do to give her her second dose in three weeks because it was so important to us., “ she said.

Canada’s immunization advisory body, the National Immunization Advisory Committee (NACI), recommends eight weeks between doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11 years based on emerging evidence that longer intervals between The first and second doses of COVID-19 Vaccines result in a stronger, longer-lasting immune response and increased vaccine efficacy.

Raymer Bishop considered NACI’s recommendation, weighed the risks and benefits to his son, and decided to give his informed consent to vaccinate his son earlier.

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“We really felt strongly, even before Omicron showed up, that we were going to want protection as soon as possible,” he said.

“Informed consent means that a parent feels safe enough … to make a decision that differs from the NACI guidelines. It’s really important that patients and parents feel that they have received enough information to make that decision, ”explained pharmacist Kristen Watt.

Watt said he is advising families who do not have strong feelings about the interval between doses to “stick to the NACI guidelines,” but acknowledged that many have chosen to do so before.

“There are many families with parents who are exceptionally well informed who are doctors or scientists who are opting for the three-week interval in the interest of keeping their children as safe as possible against COVID-19 at this time, especially with the Omicron variant. “, He said.

Watt has decided to give her children the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine after three weeks.

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“If you want to have a conversation about an earlier dose range and what the risks and benefits are, we have that conversation with a parent and they feel they understand you well enough to make the decision to get vaccinated earlier. That’s informed consent, ”Watt said.

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When Health Canada licensed the Pfizer vaccine for children, making it the first in Canada to receive regulatory approval for that age group, it noted that the two doses can be offered three weeks apart.

In the United States, where the first injections reached the arms of young people on November 3, many already received a second dose after three weeks.

“We had the CDC director over the weekend basically say that they hadn’t seen any concerns regarding myocarditis in these two million or more children who have now received a second dose at three weeks. So I think it’s very important to consider all of this … and I think parents should be able to choose what is right for them, ”said pharmacologist Sabina Vohra-Miller.

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The NACI recommendation is “discretionary,” he said, “in the sense that parents should be able to choose for themselves based on family circumstances when is the ideal time for the second dose.”

Vohra-Miller said that given the growing number of COVID-19 cases in schools, it may be wise for children to be fully vaccinated sooner.

“As we see cases progressing very fast in schools, especially in children under 12 and largely unvaccinated … we are seeing outbreaks occurring in schools across the city, I think also given that we are now facing to a new variant, all that information must be taken into consideration ”, he added.

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Global News contacted the Health Minister’s office, who provided the following statement.

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“To provide the highest possible protection against COVID-19 and variants, the province continues to strongly recommend an eight-week interval between the first and second doses for children ages five to 11. This is in line with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, and is based on evidence suggesting that longer intervals between doses result in a stronger immune response and greater effectiveness of the vaccine that is expected to last longer. “

Toronto Public Health (TPH) also continues to follow current NACI guidelines on administering a second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for children.

“NACI advises that children should receive their second dose eight weeks after receiving their first dose. This interval is recommended because it allows a better immune response to the second dose, is associated with a lower rate of side effects, and provides better protection against COVID-19 infection, including variants of concern, ”said a TPH spokesperson. to Global News. in a sentence.

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Vohra-Miller said that having a longer interval with any vaccine is always recommended because it “results in better efficacy.”

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But, he added, in a pandemic, with a case count on the rise, families cannot afford to wait to provide children with greater protection.

“If my son were to go back to school in person in January, he would definitely be opting for a shorter interval between the first and second doses,” he said.

“You can be exposed to the virus in a variety of different places, like in pharmacies and grocery stores, doctor’s offices – these are all routes of exposure … so you have the advantage of being fully protected faster.”

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