By Gordon Lambie
Following the launch of the vaccination campaign for children aged 5 to 11 across the province on Tuesday, the director of the regional campaign for the Eastern Townships, Jean Delisle, held a virtual briefing on the local plan Wednesday morning, joined by microbiologist and infectious disease specialist Dr. Alex Carignan and pediatrician Dr. Marie-Claude Roy.
“This is a step that we have eagerly awaited, and that we have been preparing for, for close to two months,” Delisle said, explaining that the briefing was held through a Facebook livestream in an effort to help provide direct answers to parents who may have questions about the vaccine and how it will be made available in the region.
Echoing what was presented during the provincial conference on Tuesday evening, the regional director explained that appointments opened Tuesday morning for parents who wish to make an appointment for their child at one of the local vaccination centres, and that a campaign coordinated with schools will begin starting the week of Dec. 6 for those children who receive parental consent. At this point in time, vaccines are available at centres only by appointment, in an effort to reduce stress for the children present on site.
“We want this to be a positive experience for our children,” he said.
In the time since the campaign launched online, Delisle said that all the appointment slots for the Sherbrooke and Granby areas were filled up to Dec. 4, although he said that work is being done to see if more times can be added to meet the demand.
Dr. Carignan underlined the importance of vaccination for children, sharing that just because children are less likely to face serious consequences from Covid, that does not mean there is no risk to them at all.
“There can be inflammation side effects, including some with cardiac implications,” he said, referring to several cases in Quebec. “The famous ‘long-covid’ can also exist among children,” he added, listing persistent fatigue, shortness of breath, and concentration problems lasting for more than 12 weeks after the initial infection.
When it comes to receiving the vaccine, the doctor said that people can expect similar side effects in children to what adults experienced, including localized arm-pain, headaches, and fever lasting between 24 and 72 hours. He argued, however, that these experiences are a small price to pay compared to the possible effects of the virus itself. Carignan also said that at this point in time there were no observed cases of myocarditis, inflammation of the heart muscle, in the clinical trials for the children’s dosage, although he acknowledged that the samples sizes were too small to be able to observe side effects that only show up in extremely rare cases. Looking at the statistics from vaccination of teens in the United States, he said that the more serious side effects tended to be more common among older teens, opening the door to the theory that they are less likely in younger children.
Recognizing that a number of local schools are currently experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks, Delisle said that any child who has received a positive diagnosis will need to wait eight weeks before receiving a dose of the vaccine. The trade off to that wait, however, is that as was the case with adults, anyone who had the virus and a single shot will then be considered adequately vaccinated.
There were 236 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the Townships from Monday to Wednesday, increasing the number of active cases in the region to 947, just 30 less than the highest it has been at any point in 2021. The highest number of active cases there has ever been at one time in the Townships was 1,164 cases, in early December of 2020.
There were ten hospitalizations in the region on Wednesday with no one in intensive care. The number of deaths increased to 382 with the addition of three more, two from the community and one at the Saint-Vincent long term care facility in Sherbrooke.
The province as a whole reported 882 new cases on Wednesday, for a total of 441,344 people infected since the start of the pandemic, and 6,703 active cases. There was one new death recorded, for a total of 11,566.
The number of hospitalizations increased by eight, to 211 with 46 people in intensive care.
By Gordon Lambie