Canada OKs Pfizer COVID booster for kids 5-11, sees monkeypox cases slow

Vials of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine, which was authorized by Canada to be used for children aged 12 to 15, are seen at Woodbine Racetrack pop-up vaccine clinic in Toronto, Ontario, Canada May 5, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos Osorio/Files

Aug 19 (Reuters) - Canada's health ministry on Friday said it had authorized the use of Pfizer Inc's (PFE.N) and BioNTech's (22UAy.DE) COVID-19 vaccine as a booster for children five to 11 years old at least six months after receiving their initial two doses.

The authorization for a booster shot was granted after a thorough, independent review of the vaccine, which "provides good protection against severe illness, hospitalization and death," the health ministry wrote on Twitter.

Canada is witnessing a decrease in COVID-19 cases but citizens must prepare for the potential emergence of new variants of the virus in the months ahead, Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's chief public health officer, told a news conference.

"Many of the good personal protective habits we have honed over more than two years of managing COVID-19 can also reduce your risk of getting infected and spreading other diseases, including monkeypox and influenza," Tam said.

Canada has reported 1,168 confirmed cases of monkeypox, including 30 hospitalizations, Tam said, adding there has "been a slowing trend in the increase in new cases reported in recent weeks."

Over 99% of reported cases are male, Tam said. Among confirmed cases for whom additional data is available, the majority reported intimate sexual contact with other men, she aded.

Monkeypox spreads via close contact and tends to cause flu-like symptoms and pus-filled skin lesions; people generally recover from it within two to four weeks, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Public health agencies have stressed that although in many countries the outbreaks are concentrated among men who have sex with men, anyone can contract the virus through prolonged close contact or from particles on items such as bedding or towels.

Reporting by Tim Ahmann and Rami Ayyub; editing by Paul Grant and Tomasz Janowski

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