Dr. Joss Reimer is preparing for a possible vaccine rollout for younger children, potentially as soon as by the end of November.

Pfizer is asking for approval from Health Canada for a COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 years old. Manitoba's vaccine task force's medical lead, Reimer, says the approval could take as few as two weeks but is expecting  Health Canada to take longer.

"Health Canada will only authorize the use of this vaccine, which is marketed under the brand name for this age group if their independent and thorough scientific review of all data that was included in this submission shows that this vaccine is both safe and effective," Reimer says, calling this an important development during a Wednesday press conference.

The doctor says this will end the crisis phase of this pandemic.

"We are certainly optimistic that as we can open up eligibility to this group that it will have a major impact on the number of cases in Manitobans going forward."

Once this happens, the vaccines for this group of children will be sent to Manitoba. Reimer says existing vaccination sites, such as supersites, will offer the vaccines. They are planning for parents to accompany their children during these appointments. 

"We are looking at a school-based rollout and because we do not yet know for sure that it will be approved, and we certainly do not know when, we have not been able to finalize plans for a school-based program."

The province is currently finishing up its vaccine campaign for youth in schools.

Reimer is expecting there to be concern about the vaccine for youth from some parents, saying "we want to prevent them from ending up in the hospital because we have definitely seen that is the case in some children."

She says this also protects their ability to continue activities, like sports and art classes, without worrying about the virus spreading.

According to provincial data, 109,630, or 63.5 per cent, of people between the ages of 10-19 have received one COVID-19 vaccine.

No data was readily available at the time of the press conference for how many children in this age group have contracted COVID-19 since September.

"Children are making up a large proportion of the number of cases, and increasingly large proportions in this wave compared to previous waves, which likely represents that they are not vaccinated."

Between October 4 to 17, 157 students of all ages have contracted COVID-19, and 26 staff members, across 80 schools. Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Brent Roussin says in the conference that school cases do not necessarily mean COVID was contracted in a school cont that students and staff in the school have confirmed cases. He says schools remain safe. 

The health order exceptions for vaccination status for young people will not change once after they become eligible for the vaccine.

Reimer says Pfizer told them there is a very strong immune response in children after getting the vaccine and no unexpected safety signals. The doctor is expecting an increase in myocarditis cases, mostly very mild.