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Parents relieved as vaccinations start for younger kids in B.C.

Some parents complained Monday morning that they had registered, but were still waiting for an invitation to book.

Elise Cote was holding back tears Monday as her seven-year-old son Milo got his first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine at University Heights mall in Saanich.

“I have honestly been crying happy relief tears on and off ever since getting the text of the appointment,” said Cote. “It’s like this huge pressure relief after almost two years now of worry.”

Cote said she got tired of waiting for her online invitation and called 1-833-838-2323 and got a booking for Monday afternoon.

Cote has been keeping her son home since a recent COVID-19 exposure notice at Tillicum Elementary School, but said she will send him back to school once immunity from the first vaccine dose kicks in.

Working from home with two young children over seven months has been “hugely disruptive,” said Cote. Her youngest, three-year-old Lucia, has been in and out of daycare because of colds circulating there. “I’ve lost track of how much time we’ve spent home isolating.”

Cote said she did research on the pediatric COVID-19 shot, but already had confidence in vaccines in general. She said she didn’t receive a vaccine for chicken pox as a child and suffered serious complications. “I had swelling in my brain and almost died and now I get shingles all the time,” she said. “We are definitely a family that is pro vaccine and have been waiting a long time for this.”

Some parents complained Monday morning that they had registered for the vaccine for their children, but were still waiting for an invitation to book.

Health Minister Adrian Dix called for patience, saying invitations started going out on Monday, with about 8,000 invitations going out per hour.

Dix said he understands some parents are anxious to have their children vaccinated immediately, but it’s only Day 1.

“These are the first hours of the campaign,” he said. “I just ask people to be patient and we’re moving forward across health authorities to get children vaccinated and at the same time continue booster shots [for seniors].

On the south Island, vaccinations for children were offered at University Heights and Westshore Town Centre. Pediatric appointments are expected to ramp up during the week and settle into a regular schedule by Friday, according to Island Health.

The two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for children age 5-11 is about one-third of an adult dose. It was recently approved by Health Canada and recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunizations.

About 108,000 children had been registered for the new vaccine — including 21,602 booked for shots — as of 4 p.m. Monday. That’s almost one-third of the 350,000 children in the 5-11 age group in B.C.

Eighty-seven per cent of those 12 and older in the province are now fully vaccinated, while 400,000 people have had third or booster doses, including those in seniors homes, those deemed clinically extremely vulnerable, and people age 70 and older living in the community.

On Monday, the province reported 970 new cases of COVID-19 over a three-day period since Friday.

That brings total COVID-19 cases in the province to 2,882 on Monday, including 303 in hospital, of whom 115 are in intensive care.

Island Health reported 238 new cases over the weekend for a total of 539 active cases. There are 51 people with COVID-19 in hospital on Vancouver Island, including 15 in intensive care units.

Of 11 deaths in the province over the weekend, none were in Island Health.

Those wanting to register themselves or a youth or child for a COVID-19 vaccine can visit gov.bc.ca/getvaccinated

ceharnett@timescolonist.com