Ontario makes Moderna vaccines available to children after human rights complaint

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Ontario parents will now be given the choice of either Pfizer or Moderna vaccines for their children between the ages of six and 11.

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The provincial government had previously only made Pfizer vaccines available to that age group, even thought Health Canada had approved vaccines by both Pfizer and Moderna.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health says Pfizer is the preferred vaccine, but has updated its guidance to say that Moderna can also be given on the basis of informed consent.

The change comes after an Ottawa professor filed a human rights complaint against Ottawa Public Health in order to get access to Moderna vaccines for his children.

Amir Attaran, a professor of law and medicine at the University of Ottawa, reached an agreement with Ottawa Public Health last week. His children were vaccinated with Moderna and that vaccine was made available to other children in Ottawa.

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In a statement, Ottawa Public Health said it received notice last week that the province would be updating its guidance for the use of Moderna in children 6 to 11 and was able to start offering the vaccine, “following direction from the province”.

The Moderna vaccine for this age group will be made available upon request and administered with informed consent.    

Attaran said he believes Moderna is the vest available vaccine for young children. He was shocked that it was not being offered as an option to all parents of young children.

He cited research suggesting the low-dose Pfizer vaccine in that age group has not been effective against the Omicron variant of COVID-19. According to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control, its efficacy was as high as 31 per cent and as low as 12 per cent against the variant that is currently circulating.

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Both the province and Ottawa Public Health said they follow the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) guidance that the Moderna vaccine (50 mcg dose) may be offered as an alternative to Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine (10 mcg dose). 

“According to NACI, the use of the Pfizer vaccine is preferred to Moderna to start or continue the primary vaccine series for children 5 to 11. While the risk of myocarditis/pericarditis with the Moderna (50 mcg) in children ages 6 to 11 is unknown, with a primary series in adolescents and young adults the rare risk of myocarditis/pericarditis with Moderna (100 mcg) was higher than with Pfizer-BioNTech (30 mcg),” said Ottawa Public Health.  

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