The high demand for vaccinations of young children is resulting in Manitoba's supersites putting a pause on walk-in COVID-19 vaccinations.

More than 10,000 first-dose appointments have been booked for children aged five to 11 across Manitoba. There are roughly 125,000 children in this age group. Dr. Joss Reimer, Manitoba's co-lead of the COVID-19 vacation task force, says more than 6,000 children have contracted COVID-19 in Manitoba, with most having mild symptoms.

"They can still pass it along with to others who may be more vulnerable and those who catch it from a child can then spread it more broadly as well. In some cases, even healthy children have become severely ill with COVID and require hospitalizations," Reimer says

The doctor says 25 children in this age range have been hospitalized with COVID-19. She says even of those children required ICU, which is a "very traumatic" experience for children.

Appointment booking at supersites began at 6 a.m. Monday morning. The demand for close-to 13,000 appointments at supersites is resulting in a pause on walk-in appointments at supersites including the RBC Convention Centre, starting on Thursday. As of 2 p.m., 15,000 appointments were booked. 

"We really weren't sure what to expect, but I was really excited to hear that I think it was in the first few hours this morning, we had already hit the 8,000 mark and then by about 1 o'clock this afternoon the last number I heard was 15,475 appointments. So that is just wonderful to hear."

She says this is encouraging, knowing many parents have not had the opportunity to book an appointment yet. 

Medical clinics and pharmacies will begin booking first appointments for this age group from Thursday to Sunday. School clinics could begin as son as next week.

"First appointments are available as early as the end of the week. Parents and caregivers who need to book two or more appointments for their children can use either option but the phone line is recommended as the best way to access multiple appointments at the same time and as close together as possible," the province says in a statement.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends the COVID-19 vaccine be given at least two weeks after the child's latest immunization.

Reimer says vaccinations for all school-aged children could make an impact on how a classroom responds to COVID-19 cases.

"There are going be a lot of questions that we are going to have to bring together and make that assessment for each school about what we expect of them. Over time, we will be able to have a better understanding of how things transmit in this community, this age group, depending on the vaccine status of the kids in the community."

To date, 2,136,367 doses of vaccine have been administered in Manitoba. 

Reimer says Pfizer running a study for a vaccine for children as young as six-months-old.