Parents anxiously awaiting updates as Health Canada assesses COVID-19 vaccine for young kids

Nearly three weeks after Moderna became the first pharmaceutical company to apply for Health Canada approval of its COVID-19 vaccine for young children, the regulatory agency is tight-lipped about progress. 

Moderna submitted an application for a pediatric dose for children aged six months to five years old on April 29, a day after it did the same in the United States.

“As with all COVID-19 vaccines, the department is prioritizing the review of this submission, while maintaining its high scientific standards for safety, efficacy and quality,” wrote a Health Canada spokesperson in response to a request from CTV News. “Health Canada will only authorize the use of Spikevax in children of this age if its independent and thorough scientific review of the data in the submission shows that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks in this age group.” 

American pediatricians are urging a swift and transparent process with updates, and many Canadian parents are doing the same.

"I'm really hopeful and keen for it to be released as soon as possible," said Vancouver mother Sarah Welton, whose one-year-old isn’t yet eligible for vaccination

Now that Moderna has submitted all pediatric data to @US_FDA, we urge an immediate, transparent and thorough review. Families of children under 5 have waited a long time for the reassurance of a safe and effective vaccine.

— American Academy of Pediatrics (@AmerAcadPeds) May 12, 2022

Her family is among those who continue to observe strict COVID-19 protocols out of concern for young children.

“We don't know what it looks like long-term and thinking for my child – their whole life is ahead of them and I would not want to put them in a position of having something like long COVID for their entire lifetime," said Welton. “It's definitely challenging as a parent watching everyone else go out and have fun and get back to everyday life and our family is still kind of stuck in COVID protocols of wearing mask, not going out for dining, not getting to do all the regular life things."

As the Weltons and others anxiously wait for word of approval, children six to 11 are the least-vaccinated age cohort in the province.

As of early April, just 56 per cent of children in that age group had been vaccinated, and the proportion had only grown to 57 per cent by May 17. Just 43 per cent have had two doses.

On average across all age groups, 85 per cent of British Columbians have had at least two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

The provincial health officer believes that if approved by Health Canada, young children could have access to their shots before the fall, when infections are expected to surge again.