Health Canada says comments it made on Twitter on Tuesday that its review of a COVID-19 vaccine for kids would still take months was incorrect and the posts were deleted.
The comments drew the ire of parents who on the same day saw regulators in the United States approve the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in kids who are five to 11 years old. NBC News reported that the first shots were already being administered on Wednesday.
The tweet thread from Health Canada on Tuesday said that Pfizer’s submission “will be reviewed over the coming months.” By Wednesday morning, it had been removed and a spokesperson for Health Canada said the regulator’s tweet on Tuesday was wrong.
“The tweet was indeed an error (both in content and the fact that it was posted as a reply to a old tweet) and therefore was taken down,” spokesperson Eric Morrissette said in a statement. He added that comments made last week by Health Canada’s Chief Medical Adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma, are still the most accurate information about when Canadian kids will be able to get their shots.
On Friday, Dr. Sharma pegged the timing for a decision on the vaccine’s use in kids at a matter of weeks, rather than months.
“We’re still at least a few weeks away from a final decision,” she said adding that Pfizer was still submitting new information and noting that its application in Canada was submitted after it sent its application to American regulators.
“I can’t see a decision before mid- to the end of November,” Dr. Sharma said. “Certainly, again, it depends on the data.”
“One of the things that we’re really careful about is that we know that when we’re making decisions, especially about our most vulnerable precious commodity, our children, is that people want to make sure that we have confidence in the review and the submission and that we have that information available so people can weigh those risks and benefits,” Dr. Sharma said.
The pediatric COVID-19 vaccine differs slightly from Pfizer-BioNTech’s adult formulation. For that reason, the company will need to deliver new vials of the vaccine before Canadian children can get their shot. In the United States, the vaccination campaign for newly eligible kids is expected to reach its full pace next week.
Canada has said that soon after Health Canada approves the vaccines, Pfizer will deliver 2.9 million child-size doses of the new formulation. That is enough to cover first doses for all children between five and 11 years of age.
So far, Health Canada has approved COVID-19 vaccines for people 12 and older. Among the eligible population, the website COVID-19 Vaccination Tracker shows that 89 per cent of people have received their first shot and 85 per cent have received their second shot.
Data from the Public Health Agency of Canada shows that the vast majority of people still getting sick with COVID-19 in Canada are unvaccinated. Similarly, the vast majority of people who need to be hospitalized because of the disease or who die from it are unvaccinated.
With files from the Canadian Press and Reuters
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