TORONTO — Ontario's top doctor is stressing that COVID-19 vaccines for children aged five to 11 are safe and effective against the virus.
Dr. Kieran Moore made the clarifying statement on Wednesday, after saying earlier in the day that the vaccines are too new to require that children take them to attend school.
Those comments drew concern from opposition politicians who said Moore's remarks might make parents more hesitant to get their kids vaccinated.
Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca called on Moore to clarify or resign from his position, while NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she was also concerned by the comment.
Both parties have called for the province to add COVID-19 vaccination to the list of immunizations required to attend school in the province.
When asked Wednesday why the province has not done that, Moore responded that the province wants "greater experience" with the vaccine.
"It is a new vaccine and as a result of that we want greater experience with it before we ever mandate it," he said. "I don't think any jurisdiction in Canada has mandated the vaccine to date."
His clarification, sent by email later in the day, stressed that the vaccine is safe.
“I want to be clear that the pediatric Pfizer vaccine for children five to 11 is safe, effective, and provides strong protection against COVID-19 and variants," Moore's statement said.
"To date, millions of children aged five to 11 have received the pediatric Pfizer vaccine and are benefitting from the strong protection provided, and the overwhelming majority of side-effects have been mild. I strongly encourage all children five to 11 to get the vaccine as soon as possible.”
Ontario kids in that age group became eligible for COVID-19 vaccines late last year. As of Wednesday, 47 per cent of five-to-11-year-olds had taken the first dose of vaccine and four per cent had received both shots.
Moore said at the news conference that he would "would love to see a higher uptake of the vaccine" and referenced plans to run more clinics in schools when classes resume in-person next week.
He also referenced resources available through SickKids Hospital in Toronto that address common questions from parents about COVID-19 vaccinations.
Premier Doug Ford also said Wednesday that he wants to see more children get vaccinated against the virus.
Speaking at a Toronto vaccine clinic, he encouraged parents to quickly send back consent forms for in-school vaccination clinics so Ontario can quickly get more kids protected against the virus.
"When the kids bring home the permission slip, parents, when you have them, please sign them. Please sign them and get them back," Ford said. "We're going to be vaccinating the kids in schools. That's the quickest and best way."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2022.
Holly McKenzie-Sutter, The Canadian Press