Written by CNN Staff
Despite lingering concerns from some scientists, Toronto’s top doctor said Wednesday she expects the recently passed COVID-19 vaccination for measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) to be approved and offered for young children within weeks.
Dr. Evelyn Ripley, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics and chief medical officer of pediatric primary care at Toronto Western Hospital, told CNN that her assessment was based on a recent meeting with Dr. Gary Kobinger, the agency overseeing the vaccine’s approval.
Ripley said she expected a formal license for COVID-19 to be granted to Health Canada — the government of Canada’s health agency — in about a month, followed by an official “launch” within three months.
“We hope that within a couple weeks, parents can access COVID-19 for their children in our clinic,” she said, adding that she expected the program to be fully implemented by July.
The vaccine was approved by Health Canada last month.
The vaccine is generally recommended for children ages 9 to 11 who are traveling abroad — including domestic residents traveling within Canada — and those who develop shingles or are at risk of contracting a related illness.
Mild cases of measles can develop in young children. The vaccine prevents three strains of the disease but not the fourth — Hib, a bacterial strain that typically causes a severe disease in infants and is linked to the deaths of 1 in 5 children with Hib disease, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
“While there may be some parents who would want to delay vaccinating their children or children against MMR, this vaccine is necessary and works,” said Ripley, who called COVID-19 an “extremely safe and effective vaccine.”
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“You have to be prepared, you have to be fast, you have to have enough staff on hand to support the response,” she said. “It’s one of the few times where the university and the large community hospital can all work together to support the last line of defense. We bring emergency department physicians on, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and extra medical staff to the ER and all of the walk-in clinics. Because we’re doing as many walk-in clinics as possible, we aren’t completely saturated with patients, so we have about 10,000 patients over that busy 24-hour period.”
“We don’t call it a ‘flu season’ — we call it a ‘public health outbreak.’ It’s not just us. There’s a lot of patients for us and for the health care community to support. At our hospital, we’ve had close to 80% staff turn over,” she said.
More than 500 patients attended Toronto Western Hospital’s emergency department each day during August and September, she said.
“We’ve been able to get the correct staffing levels in order to support our frontline services so that we can get in front of the outbreak and provide that seamless care as quickly as possible for the patients we have,” Ripley said.