Not enough Canadian children are being vaccinated against COVID-19 at a time when the rapidly spreading Omicron variant threatens to swamp healthcare systems, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Wednesday.
Official data show that as of Jan. 1, 87.6% of Canadians above the age of 12 had received two shots. But among those aged from 5 to 12, that number dipped to just 2%, with 45.6% receiving one dose.
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“Almost half of kids across this country have gotten their vaccine. … We need to get more, so please ask your parents if you can get vaccinated,” Trudeau said, addressing children directly during a regular briefing.
Schools in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec, which together account for around 61% of Canada’s total population of 38.4 million, are teaching virtually, but children are due to return to classrooms later this month.
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Last week Trudeau said Canadians were angry and frustrated by people who were not vaccinated, but on Wednesday he reverted to his more familiar tactic of cajoling the reluctant.
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Inoculations support those “who are at risk of seeing important surgeries and treatments canceled because our health systems are getting overrun,” he said.
Trudeau, however, sidestepped repeated questions about Quebec’s plans to force adults refusing to get COVID-19 jabs to pay a “health contribution,” saying he needed more details about what the province was planning.
— Reporting by David Ljunggren; additional reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru
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