Feds have no plans to extend vaccine mandate to kids: Duclos

OTTAWA — The federal government says it has no plans to enforce a vaccine mandate for children, as Health Canada green lights the first COVID-19 vaccine for those aged five to 11 years old.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says, as it stands now, Ottawa won’t apply the same mobility restrictions to children as they have to adults travelling in and out of the country.

“There are no changes to the vaccination or testing rules for children of any age. We are, as you said, entirely focused now on delivering the doses of Pfizer to the provinces and territories so that we can start administering the Pfizer vaccine as quickly as possible,” said Duclos in an interview with CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday.

He stipulated that no one can predict “how the situation will evolve.”

On Friday, Health Canada authorized the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s two-dose vaccine for children. The first shipment of these pediatric doses will arrive on Sunday, with a total of 2.9 million doses landing by the end of next week.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), which makes recommendations to governments about the use of vaccines, has stated that kids “may” be offered the Pfizer vaccine.

“It’s not unusual for the beginning of any vaccine recommendations for NACI to begin by saying ‘may be offered’ to a certain group of vaccinees just because of the information they have in front of them and the size of the trials for example,” said Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam during a press conference Friday.

“But we expect NACI to continue to evaluate that information, and as did some of the adult recommendations, they can shift over time.”

In their analysis, NACI said because of uncertainties surrounding pediatric vaccination at this time, children and their parents and guardians should be respected for their decision on whether to opt for the vaccine and “should not be stigmatized” either way.

Moderna has also submitted their COVID-19 vaccine for Health Canada approval for administration in kids aged six-to 11-years old.

BOOSTER SHOTS

Duclos said the government also doesn’t intend to include COVID-19 booster shots within vaccine mandate requirements.

“Based on the public health guidance and knowledge that we now have there is no need to change the rules around the definition of full vaccination,” he said.

Health Canada has approved the use of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccine as a booster shot in people 18 and up to be given at least six months after finishing a primary vaccine course. Provinces and territories have implemented their own application rules.

PCR TEST CHANGES

In a subsequent announcement, government officials announced that as of Nov. 30, fully vaccinated Canadians and permanent residents returning home from trips less than 72 hours from abroad will no longer have to provide proof of a negative molecular test, such as a PCR test.

Asked why the timeframe of three days, Duclos said a shorter trip equates to less risk.

“The Public Health Agency [of Canada] assessed that being very short trips, the risk of those people catching the disease and returning with the virus to Canada was modest compared to other risks,” he said.

“Health Canada, Public Health Agency [of Canada], with border officials, will be randomly testing those Canadians that are leaving for less than three days to see whether indeed, we should be continuing with that policy or whether we should be revising it in the future.”

With files from CTV News’ Rachel Aiello

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