Children's vaccines key to ending pandemic: doctor

Windsor Star 3 minute read October 8, 2021

Students of Ecole Elementaire L'Envolee, a French-language public school in Windsor, walk to a school bus after classes on Sept. 9, 2020. Dan Janisse / The Windsor Star

The local rate of COVID-19 infection has been nearly cut in half in the past few weeks and Windsor Regional Hospital’s Chief of Staff Dr. Wassim Saad thinks the imminent arrival of vaccines for children under-12 will be the blow that breaks the grip of the pandemic.

“In my opinion that could potentially be the final nail in the coffin for the pandemic and this virus,” said Saad following Thursday’s board of directors meeting.

“Unfortunately, that’s the population right now. That’s the patient population where the virus has an opportunity to continue to replicate in and continue to potentially create a new variant that could infect the rest of us.

“If we shut down that avenue for the virus to replicate, I really think that’s going to be beginning of the end.”

The local infection rate per 100,000 people has dipped into the 50s as of Oct. 6. Of those new infections, 31 per cent fall in the group aged zero to 19.

Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj said the falling numbers are proof that vaccinations and vaccination mandates work.

There was a significant uptick in vaccinations at the time Ontario’s vaccine passport system went into effect (Sept. 22) and the infection rate locally and provincially began declining soon after.

“You can see the change around that date,” Musyj said. “We’re going in the right direction, but going indoors more means we can’t let our guard down.”

The light at the end of the tunnel brightened a little this week when Pfizer began to submit data to Health Canada for its trials for children five to 12 years old.

The company found youngsters only need a third of the adult dosage for the vaccine to be effective.

“What we’re hearing is American Thanksgiving time will be the time that it will be available.”

Musyj said the Health Canada will study speeding the process up by taking smaller dosages from existing adult vials rather than wait for child-specific vials.

“There’s a lot of hope that it’ll be the quicker process,” Musyj said. “It could be sooner than American Thanksgiving if they approve using the adult vials.”

WRH’s chief operating officer, chief nursing executive and vice-president of critical care and cardiology Karen Riddell said visitations by school-aged children to the Paediatric Urgent Medical Assessment Clinic and the Ouellette campus have levelled off in in recent days after a rapid escalation with schools opening.

On Wednesday there were 136 visitations between the two sites. There have been 2,067 children tested at PUMA since the end of August.

“It’s become pretty consistent at 120-130 children per day,” Riddell said.

“From a COVID perspective, we’re not seeing a lot of hospitalizations of paediatric cases. Our concern going into the fall is RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus).

“That could cause as many or more problems than COVID.”

Respiratory Syncytial Virus has similar symptoms to COVID, which could lead to some confusion among families. RSV cases are popping up in significant numbers in Quebec and the treatment plans differ for the two viruses.