Canada has dropped the minimum age for receiving the Pfizer coronavirus vaccine from 16 to 12. The decision was announced Wednesday by Health Canada, the nation's regulator, which limits the other three products approved for use—AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Moderna—to recipients over 18, the CBC reports. The agency's chief medical adviser said the decision could help young people return to school and extracurricular activities, calling it "a significant milestone in Canada's fight against the pandemic." Health Canada reviewed clinical trial data from Pfizer before deciding. The US trial found the vaccine to be 100% effective in recipients 12 to 15, up from 95% for other age groups, per CTV. Some provinces already have given the vaccine to high-risk children under 15, said the adviser, Dr. Supriya Sharma. "That was done off label, which is absolutely within their purview," Sharma said.
Canada is the first nation to approve vaccinations for people that young, but the US is on track to follow suit any day now. A Toronto pediatrician who treats children who are long-haulers said, "The data is showing more and more that children can get it and they can spread it." Hundreds have been hospitalized in Ontario with the disease, for example. "This is huge," she said. Canada is dealing with its third wave of infections; about 35% of the population has had at least one dose of vaccine. Getting children vaccinated will take a burden off their parents, as well, doctors said. Health professionals immediately began trying to figure when there will be doses available for the youngest group. One pediatrician hopes children can come in with their parents and all be vaccinated at once. "It's going to be complicated" to get the doses into children, she said. "But they are the spreaders." (Read more coronavirus vaccine stories.)