Canadian public health officials were forced to step in when they learned that a Toronto area physician has been vaccinating hundreds of children under five, some as young as 6 months, against COVID-19 despite the age group not being authorized to receive the vaccine.
Dr. Christopher Sun, a family physician in the Toronto suburb of Mount Dennis, was administering vaccines to ineligible children. Health Canada has not approved any COVID vaccine for children under five.
Speaking exclusively to the Toronto Star, Sun said he administered the vaccine to about 500 children between the ages of six months and five years over a three-month period, saying he did so to “protect children.”
Whether or not to vaccinate children against COVID-19 has been a highly debated topic. Many argue that since children’s susceptibility to the disease is extremely low that the risk of adverse reactions to the vaccine outweighs the risk posed by COVID.
According to government of Canada data just over 85 percent of eligible Canadians, five years and older, are considered fully vaccinated against COVID-19. When looking at data for the five to 11 year old cohort however the vaccination rate drops considerably to 41.75 percent indicating many parents, while vaccinated themselves, may be reluctant to vaccinate their children.
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In an interview Sun said, “I put my neck on the line and did what I wanted to get done, which was to protect children,” adding that parents “understood the benefits and risks” and that he believed “ethically [he] had no reason to say no” to parents asking for their child to be vaccinated.
“These are worried parents in time of a health crisis and I think it’s wrong to turn away people who know what they are getting into,” he added.
“One shot quickly turned to more as word got around,” The Star reported.
In March, Sun was directed by Toronto Public Health to halt vaccinations of children under five and reported him to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) however, he continued to vaccinate the age group until the end of the month. He has since halted the practice.
Reportedly, the CPSO has interviewed Sun about his actions, but dismissed the concern.
Shae Greenfield, a CPSO spokesperson, said in an email that she was unable to comment on the matter but that “unique facts” are considered in each complaint and used “to determine how best to ensure that the public is protected.”
“Among the factors that would be considered are the nature of the concern, the physician’s willingness to correct that behavior, and whether there is reason to believe that further intervention is necessary to ensure that patients are not subjected to unnecessary risk,” she wrote.
Lenore Romley, a spokesperson for Toronto Public Health told The Star after numerous inquiries into the matter that “At this time, no COVID-19 vaccine is approved in Canada for children under the age of five years old. The Ontario Ministry of Health guidance does not permit vaccination of children under age five with any publicly funded COVID-19 vaccine.”
Ministry of Health spokespersons refused to comment on how many children under the age of five have been vaccinated in the province, however, according to data published by the Canadian government just 98, or 0.01 percent of children under five in the country, have received a COVID-19 vaccine.