B.C. teens can expect to be vaccinated by the end of summer vacation, officials say

Teenagers in B.C. can expect to be offered COVID-19 vaccines before the beginning of next school year, says Dr. Bonnie Henry.

The provincial health officer shared the news during a coronavirus update on Monday, saying that decisions on how and when to vaccinate young people will be made in May and June.

“We have started to look at (the question of) ‘Where do we factor in adolescents?’” Henry said.

“Clearly we want to make sure that we can make sure adolescents are protected before next school year.”

Henry said that 16- and 17-year-olds in B.C. who were deemed “clinically extremely vulnerable” have already received COVID-19 vaccines.

Decisions on how and when to offer shots in arms to teenagers are complicated by the fact that only one vaccine is currently licensed for teens in Canada, she said. Specifically, the Pfizer vaccine, which is licensed to be given to people only as young as 16.

However, Henry pointed to new research, which she said is promising. Pfizer, for example, has completed a study on vaccinating youth aged 12 to 16, and Health Canada is currently reviewing it.

A decision on whether Pfizer can be given to people as young as 12 is expected in the coming weeks, “barring anything unusual,” Henry said.

Once there’s a vaccine for that age group, the province will be in a better position to make more definitive plans.

“We need to look at how … we fit that into our system and that is the work that's being done right now by our B.C. immunization committee and our public health vaccination committee,” she said.

Moderna is also in the midst of studies on giving the vaccine to teens, and eventually a study on giving the vaccine to babies as young as six months.

“Over this month and into June, we'll be making decisions on where at least adolescents or teenagers will fit into the program and when they will be eligible for vaccination as well,” she said.

Henry did not comment on when kids under 12 can start expecting a vaccine but said the fact that kids generally show milder symptoms and are less likely to end up in hospital is a factor in deciding how they will be factored into the vaccination program.