OTTAWA (REUTERS) - Canada is authorising the use of Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine for use in children aged 12 to 15, the first doses to be allowed in the country for people that young, the federal health ministry said on Wednesday (May 5).
Supriya Sharma, a senior adviser at the Canadian federal health ministry, said the Pfizer vaccine, produced with German partner BioNTech, was safe and effective in the younger age group.
"We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,"she told reporters.
Sharma and a health ministry spokesman said Canada was the first country to grant such an approval, but a Canadian representative for Pfizer later said Algeria permitted use of the vaccine for this age group in April. The Canadian health ministry said it had no information about the discrepancy.
The US Food and Drug Administration is expected to take a similar step "very soon," US health officials said.
Alberta will become the first province to offer the vaccines to everyone aged 12 and over from May 10, Premier Jason Kenney said on Wednesday, a day after he introduced tighter public health measures to combat a raging third wave of the pandemic.
United Conservative Party premier Kenney has come under fire for mixed public health messaging as the crest of Canada's third wave of the pandemic shifts from Ontario to Alberta. Oil-rich Alberta has the highest rate per capita of Covid-19 in the country, with nearly 24,000 active cases and 146 people in intensive care.
"We must act to bend the curve down one last time," Kenney told a news conference. Based on current trends, Alberta's healthcare system will be overwhelmed within a month, he added. On Wednesday, Alberta reported 2,271 new cases, exploding from less than 200 in early February.
Separately, authorities reported the third death of a Canadian from a rare blood clot condition after receiving AstraZeneca's Covid-19 vaccine. The man, who was in his sixties, lived in the Atlantic province of New Brunswick.
Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health in New Brunswick, said the province would continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Alberta reported a death from clotting on Tuesday and Quebec announced one on April 27.
"There will be rare cases where thrombosis will occur.
However, the risks remain minimal compared to the risks, complications and potential consequences of Covid-19," Russell told reporters.
Canada's federal government has bought tens of millions of doses of vaccines but critics complain the pace of inoculation is lagging due to bottlenecks in the 10 provinces, which are responsible for administering the doses.