National vaccine advisory panel recommends Pfizer shot for anyone 12 and up: Tam

Canada’s national vaccine advisory panel is now recommending Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine for anyone aged 12 and up, according to the country’s chief public health officer, backing up recent provincial efforts to start vaccinating younger Canadians.

Dr. Theresa Tam made the announcement during an update Tuesday from federal officials, noting that the National Advisory Council on Immunization (NACI) now recommends a standard two-dose vaccination schedule of the Pfizer shot for any eligible Canadians between 12 and 18, following an earlier Health Canada authorization for younger teens.

Even before NACI’s stamp of approval, various provinces began opening up vaccination appointments to younger teens.

Last week, bookings in Manitoba hit a record high as the province opened up eligibility to anyone aged 12 and up, Ontario plans to open up vaccinations to youth under 18 by the end of the month, while other regions including Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador are aiming to vaccinate teens before the current school year ends.

The mRNA-based Pfizer vaccine was initially authorized for use in Canada for anyone 16 and up last December.

In early May, Health Canada approved it for youth between 12 to 15 after the company completed a clinical trial that found it was safe and 100 per cent effective at preventing kids in that age group from getting COVID-19.

Sophoe Boggs, 13, receives a COVID-19 vaccine in Michigan in mid-May. U.S. regulators recently authorized the Pfizer vaccine for use in children as young as 12. (Jacob Hamilton/Ann Arbor News/The Associated Press)

1 in 5 COVID-19 cases are people under 19

At the time, Dr. Supriya Sharma, the chief medical adviser at Health Canada, called the new authorization “a significant milestone in Canada’s fight against the pandemic” and said it could help allow young people to safely return to school and extracurricular activities.

According to federal data cited by Sharma, up to 20 per cent of the COVID-19 cases reported in Canada have been among people under 19. 

“Health Canada has placed terms and conditions on this authorization requiring Pfizer-BioNTech to continue providing information to Health Canada on the safety, efficacy and quality of the vaccine in this younger age group to ensure its benefits continue to be demonstrated once it is on the market,” the department said in a statement on May 5.

Tam said the new NACI recommendations come during a time of encouraging increases in vaccine supply, with nine million doses of the Pfizer vaccine alone expected to arrive by the end of June.

“The coming weeks and months hold great promise,” she said. 

Earlier this month, U.S. regulators also authorized the Pfizer vaccine for use in children as young as 12, widening the country’s vaccination program to include millions of American youth.

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