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Local parents weigh in on vaccine approval for kids

Health Canada has approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged five to 11 and the province could begin offering initial doses as early as this week.

Health Canada has approved Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages five to 11 and the province announced Tuesday that vaccination appointments will be open for booking as of Nov. 24 at 8 a.m.

Open appointment slots will begin Nov. 26 and will be available at 120 Alberta Health Services facilities as well as four pharmacies throughout the province. Appointments can be booked by caling 811 or visiting alberta.ca/vaccine. Vaccine clinics for kids will be available locally at the Cochrane RancheHouse Dec. 1, 2, 6 and 7.

With the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine becoming available to younger kids, some Cochrane parents say it's important to make decisions for your children based on personal circumstance and to be respectful of others who may make a different choice.

"As moms and dads, we always worry about our children and we never want them to end up sicker than needed," said local Kristy Boltwood, a mother of a six and eight-year-old. 

"The great part about living in a free country is we get to decide what's best for our families."

Boltwood noted that while she does not plan to vaccinate her children against COVID-19, it was a decision she made based on information she's read, side-effects she's seen in others who received the vaccine and because she believes her family already contracted the virus prior to testing becoming available in 2020, and she said they were fine.

"We need our bodies to recognize any sort of cold and flu that comes in and learn to fight it off," she said. "The use of antibiotics for example, is quickly becoming overrun and we're becoming antibiotic resistant. I feel like we need to go back to focusing on nourishing our bodies with what we need and the vitamins that we have to take and our bodies are going to repay us with a bigger immune system to be able to fight these things off a lot easier."

Pfizer and its partner BioNTech received approval of a child-sized dose of the mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 after submitting the request Oct. 18.

According to thorough reviews by Health Canada, it's been determined the benefits of the vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11 outweigh the risks.

The results of company trials within the age group show comparable safety and efficacy to those recorded in a previous Pfizer-BioNTech study in people aged 16 to 25.

According to the regulator, no serious side-effects were identified in the trial and the vaccine was 90.7 per cent effective at preventing the virus's contraction. 

Angela Schmidt, a local mother of three kids aged 13, 15 and 17 said her kids were vaccinated as soon as they became eligible. 

"For myself, I look at it very much like the flu vaccine which my children have been getting for the last eight years," she said. "Every year, I talk with my kids about it — we're not just protecting ourselves, but we're protecting the community that's around us that don't have immune systems. I look at it very much in the same way."

One of Schmidt's three sons is a cancer survivor, which was also a big factor in their decision to get immunized against the flu each year and against COVID-19.

"We are part of the Kids Cancer Care community," she said. "We haven't been to an event in the past few years, but typically we were at events where there are children still on treatment, who do not have immune systems. So for us to be protected, it's not just us, it's protecting them."

Schmidt also said having gone through that experience, she understands everyone's circumstances are different and that people have to make choices that they feel are right for them. 

"I just wish people could have that compassion to realize that they're coming from a different standpoint," she said. "Yes, it may not be yours, but it does not make it any less valid. I have friends that are not vaccinated and that is their choice, they have to live with that choice. Plain and simple. Just like I have to live with my choice."

Boltwood said she firmly believes their decision is one that is being made in her family's best interest and that others need to do what feels right for them. 

"I see it on community Facebook pages and in the mom support groups — everybody's quick to be mean to each other. Nobody ever sits back and thinks, 'I'm glad that they're making a choice for them and their families that is in the best interest of them, not for everybody else.'"