According to Alberta Health numbers, Calgary is once again seeing a massive geographic disparity in COVID-19 vaccine uptake, this time in young children ages five to 11.

“It’s access, it’s distribution,” said Dr. Gabriel Fabreau, an assistant professor at the University of Calgary. “There’s only a single centre that’s distributing kids’ vaccinations in that age group for the entire north-east quadrant.”

“We know that’s a section of our city that’s been affected the most.”

The latest numbers show that more than 64 per cent of children ages five to 11 living in Calgary-Elbow have received one dose of the pediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, while that number dwindles to 22.4 per cent in parts of northeast Calgary.

Story continues below advertisement

“That’s a 40 per cent gap,” Fabreau said. “That’s much higher than we saw with the adult campaign.”

This trend also concerning to community leader Anila Lee Yuen with the Centre for Newcomers, which provides resources for immigrants and refugees in Calgary.

“It wasn’t a surprise to us that this was going to happen,” Lee Yuen said. “It took a large group effort… and a lot of resources have not been made available for us to be able to continue that effort.”

The effort Lee Yuen is referring to is a massive community campaign to get adults in northeast Calgary vaccinated after uptake lagged behind last year.

After months of community engagement and education, a year later, the area had the highest rate of vaccination in the city and province, with 99.3 per cent of people over the age of 12 with at least one COVID-19 shot.

Click to play video: 'Upper northeast Calgary has highest vaccination rate in Alberta' Upper northeast Calgary has highest vaccination rate in Alberta

Upper northeast Calgary has highest vaccination rate in Alberta – Nov 28, 2021

“It really goes back to disparity and systemic barriers that are in place,” Lee Yuen said. “Making it as barrier free, for healthcare, is extremely important.

Story continues below advertisement

“It can include things like having clinics that are easily accessible, having pop-up or outreach clinics, and being able to have information widely available in first language.”

Another community setting both Fabreau and Lee Yuen would like to see pediatric vaccines made available is in schools.

“I think that would be the fastest, easiest way to close that disparity,” Fabreau said. “In-school vaccinations would be a great tool and has been done in Canada for decades and could be a really helpful equity intervention.”

Fabreau added it would important for any vaccination program to be voluntary and require parental consent.

“That’s the responsibility of us adults (and) we have to protect the children.”

Click to play video: 'Young Albertans roll up their sleeves to get vaccinated against COVID-19' Young Albertans roll up their sleeves to get vaccinated against COVID-19

Young Albertans roll up their sleeves to get vaccinated against COVID-19 – Nov 26, 2021

“We would need to have information in terms of what pediatric doses are and what the effects might be on children,” Lee Yuen said. “All of those things that parents might be asking but also available in first language.”

Story continues below advertisement

Health Canada’s approval of the Pfizer vaccine for younger children was based on a clinical trial involving more than 3,000 children. This study found that vaccine efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 was 90.7 per cent.

On Tuesday, Calgary mayor Jyoti Gondek said that the city is very interested in making sure all Calgarians have equitable access to the booster shot and vaccines for children.

“It’s important to remember that vaccinating kids is a significant task and it’s one that we have to undertake in a united manner,” Gondek said. “We will absolutely do everything we can as a city to identify where greater supports are needed, deploy what we can and urge the province to do the same.”

Click to play video: 'AHS CEO strongly advising parents to get eligible children vaccinated against COVID-19' AHS CEO strongly advising parents to get eligible children vaccinated against COVID-19

AHS CEO strongly advising parents to get eligible children vaccinated against COVID-19 – Sep 23, 2021

So far the province has not committed to making the pediatric vaccine available in schools.

Story continues below advertisement

On Wednesday, the province said in a statement that pediatric vaccinations are being administered at all 120 Alberta Health Services clinics around the province as well as four pharmacies where an AHS clinic is not located.

“AHS clinic hours vary, and do include evenings and weekends. In most large centres, the hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.,” said Alberta Health assistant communications director Jason Maloney. “AHS will increase evening hours once children aged five to 11 become eligible for second doses, starting on Jan. 21.”

“There are currently over 6,000 appointments available within the next week and appointments are available in all zones of the province,” Maloney added. “There is sufficient vaccine supply to immunize all children ages five to 11 in Alberta.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

Tracy Nagai

globalnews.ca

Read Source