EDMONTON — Alberta is to begin taking bookings for COVID-19 vaccinations and administering the shots for children ages six months to five years starting Tuesday.
It's the last province to announce its vaccine rollout plans for this age group.
"Parents are in the best position to decide whether the vaccination is right for their children, and we are providing them with the information they need to help them make that choice," Health Minister Jason Copping said in a statement Friday.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta's chief medical officer of health, said that while most children are not at a high risk of severe outcomes from the virus, those under five have higher risks than those between five and 11.
"I encourage parents and guardians to speak to a trusted health-care provider for questions about their child’s health, including questions about COVID-19 and immunization," she said.
The government said the Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine is to be administered at Alberta Health Services clinics across the province.
Children on First Nations can access doses through nursing stations or public health clinics on-reserve.
Pharmacists will not be delivering these doses, as their scope of practice is for shots for those five years and older.
The announcement means about 234,000 more Albertans are now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine and that as of Tuesday all provinces will have have begun administering or at least booking appointments for this age group.
Alberta Health recommends the children in this cohort receive a primary series of two doses with at least eight weeks between the first and second shot.
A primary series of three doses is recommended for those moderately to severely immunocompromised, with an interval of four to eight weeks between each dose.
Health Canada approved the Spikevax vaccine two weeks ago, and Alberta Health said the vaccine has been used in the U.S. since mid-June with no safety concerns identified.
The doses are about one-quarter the size of those approved for adults.
While serious illness among children is rare, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization has said the number of children hospitalized for COVID-19 shot up dramatically as the Omicron variant spread rampantly last winter.
The average monthly rate of young children hospitalized because of COVID-19 was 15.9 per 100,000 children under five in the first three months of 2022.
That figure is up from 1.4 per 100,000 in the first two years of the pandemic.
First-dose appointments must be booked through the Alberta Vaccine Booking System at bookvaccine.alberta.ca or by calling Health Link at 811.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on July 29, 2022.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press