OTTAWA -- Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, announced that Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized to be used as a booster for children aged 5-11.

Tam said Health Canada has authorized 10 microgram booster doses for children, and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has released guidance on its use.

This is the first booster approved for children aged 5-11, with Moderna being authorized for just two doses of its vaccine for that age group.

NACI says children with underlying medical conditions or who are immunocompromised, and therefore at risk of more severe outcomes from the virus, should be offered the Pfizer-BioNTech booster dose at least six months following their second shot.

“This booster dose provides a great option to restore protection for this age group, especially for those who are at high risk of severe illness,” Tam said.

All other children in the 5-11 age group may also be offered the booster dose as of six months following their second shot, Tam said, adding that the risk of severe outcomes for them is “generally rare.”

“I like to remind parents that severe medical conditions in this age group should be rare,” she said. “So I think giving people the choice and providing parents and kids with information about the effectiveness of a vaccine and the importance of the booster can help them make this choice.”

The vaccination rate for children aged 5-11 is the lowest of any other cohort — with about 42 per cent having completed their primary series of two doses — compared to more than 99 per cent for the over-80 age group, and at least 83 per cent for every other group older than 12.

The announcement comes as Tam and Deputy Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Howard Njoo gave an update on both COVID-19 and monkeypox cases in Canada.

Tam said while many regions appear to be past the most recent peak in COVID-19 cases, with weekly case counts on the decline, there are some exceptions.

She said getting vaccinations up to date is a “top priority” to prepare for potential future waves in the fall, as students return to school, people return to work following summer vacations, and Canadians generally start making their way back indoors.