Ontario’s top public health official says that it would be “putting the cart before the horse” to extend vaccination requirements to children aged five to 11, given that COVID-19 vaccines were only recently approved for use in the age group.

All individuals 12 and up need to produce proof of vaccination in order to access a number of non-essential settings in Ontario.

But right now children under 12 are exempted from the policy, which predates Health Canada’s approval of Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine.

During a briefing on Thursday Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore was asked whether the proof of vaccination requirement could eventually be expanded to apply to younger children as well but he said that further study would be needed for that to happen.

It should be noted that data from clinical trials has shown that Pfizer’s pediatric vaccine was 90.7 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 in children while producing no serious side effects.

“We will review the science and the benefits over time because it's a new vaccine and we’re one of the first countries that have adopted this vaccine for this age. But we need time to review it before it would ever be part of any mandate,” Moore said. “I think that is putting the cart before the horse.”

Right now unvaccinated Ontarians who are 12 and up can’t dine in at a restaurant, attend a sporting event or go to a movie, among other things.

But children between the ages of five and 11, a group that consists of approximately one million Ontarians, can do all those things without being asked for proof of vaccination. Vaccines for that age group only became available to the general population yesterday.

Speaking with reporters, Moore said that individual businesses can still make a separate decision from the government to require that younger patrons are fully vaccinated.

However, when it comes to a province wide requirement the chief medical officer of health seemed to suggest that he doesn’t see it happening “at all.”

He said that is, in part, because it is a new vaccine and "we want parents to feel confident in the decisions they make and not feel coerced by any means."

“The major difference (with individuals 12 and up) is the length of time we've had and the breadth of science and study of the vaccine and the benefits in those age groups.” he said. “We do have good science for the 12 to 17, we have established its safety, its efficacy, its benefits and hence it was included in the vaccine certification process. We just need to build that evidence base of the (pediatric) vaccine. It’s new, it needs time and we will build the science to support its implementation. But it's a brand new rollout so I honestly don't see its integration into the verification process at all.”

Moore’s comments on Thursday come as the rollout of the vaccination of school-aged children kicks into a higher gear after just a few hundred doses were administered on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ontario health officials have said that about 100,000 school-aged children are already booked to receive their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine at mass immunization sites.

Public health units will also be carrying out hundreds of school-based clinics.

Speaking with reporters earlier in the day, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said that the most important thing right now is getting children vaccinated “as soon as possible.”

But she said that she does believe that the government should eventually expand vaccination requirements to the age group.

“Not only do I believe kids need to be vaccinated, but I think it should go on the roster of required vaccinations at school as well,” she said.