Health Canada is expected to give an update on the approval of Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine for infants and preschoolers between the ages of six-months and five-years old. A family arrives for an appointment at a COVID-19 immunization clinic in Regina, Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Bell

Health Canada approves first COVID-19 vaccine for children under five

Canada’s drug regulator approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for infants and preschoolers, making it the first vaccine approved for that age group in the country.

Health Canada now says the Moderna vaccine can be given to young children between the ages of six months and five years old in doses one-quarter the size of that approved for adults.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization is expected to provide advice on its use Thursday afternoon.

“After a thorough and independent scientific review of the evidence, the department has determined that the vaccine is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 in children between 6 months and 5 years of age,” the Public Health Agency of Canada announced on Twitter Thursday.

The agency said it will continue to keep a close on the safety of the vaccine, and has required Moderna to provide updated data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

In the decision posted on the Health Canada website, the agency said Phase 3 trial results for the drug show the immune response in children six months to five years old was comparable to Moderna’s vaccine for 18 to 25-year-olds.

The approval expands COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to nearly two million children in Canada, though where and when the vaccine will be given to kids will be determined by provinces.

The vaccine requires two doses — each a quarter of the size of an adult dose — given about four weeks apart.

Health Canada said there were no safety concerns identified in the study. The most common reactions were similar to the ones kids experience for other pediatric vaccines, like pain at the site, sleepiness and loss of appetite.

Less commonly, some kids got a mild to moderate fever, swelling at the injection site, nausea, tender lymph nodes under the arm, headaches and muscle aches.

Health Canada said there are still some uncertainties about the vaccine because it’s new and there’s no long-term data available yet. For example, there’s little data about the risk of very rare reactions like myocarditis, a swelling of heart tissue, though no cases came up in the trials.

There is also more to learn about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine in young children with other health conditions or who are immunocompromised, the documents said.

The United States approved Moderna and Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccines last month, and so far have immunized 267,000 children in that age group as of July 8.

Pfizer’s pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for young children between six-months and five-years old was submitted to Health Canada last month and is still under review.

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