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Children and Youth COVID-19 Vaccines

Health Canada has recently approved the Pfizer vaccine (Comirnaty) for children ages 5–11.

Both Moderna (SpikeVax) and Pfizer (Comirnaty) are authorized for youth ages 12–17. Ontario recommends using Pfizer/Comirnaty for young people up to age 24.

This page will provide information and resources so parents and guardians can make informed decisions about the COVID-19 vaccine for their children.

Children Ages 5–11

(for information specific to ages 12–17 – scroll down to that section)

Benefits of getting the COVID-19 Vaccine for Children

  • The COVID-19 vaccine protects children from becoming sick with COVID-19, and particularly from becoming so sick that they need to be hospitalized. While fortunately not very common, some children have died from the COVID-19 infection. 
  • Some people (including children) are reporting ‘long-COVID’ – breathing problems, difficulty concentrating, and other symptoms that last for months or more – even if their initial infection from COVID-19 was not severe.
  • Children who are vaccinated against COVID-19, then help to protect other, more vulnerable people in their lives, like babies, and grandparents – making family gatherings less risky for everyone involved.
  • Fully vaccinated children (14 days after receiving their second dose), who are exposed to someone with COVID-19, can still go to school or childcare as long as they don’t have COVID-19 symptoms. Otherwise they need to stay home for up to 10 days.
  • Children getting vaccinated will help to prevent the spread of COVID-19 among others in the classroom, sports team, or other activities.

How the COVID-19 Vaccine was approved for Children

Health Canada did a thorough and independent review for safety, efficacy and quality for the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children. They took into consideration the benefits versus risks for both the vaccine and for COVID-19 infections specific to this age group. Here Health Canada’s Regulatory Decision Summary ages 5-11 for the Pfizer/Comirnaty vaccine.

Here is the National Advisory Committee on Immunization’s (NACI) statement on COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5-11.

How to Prepare your Child for getting Vaccinated

Kids are pros at getting vaccinated. They have been doing it since 2 months of age – and several times over. Our clinic staff also have a lot of experience vaccinating children in this age group. Parents know their children best and can decide how to approach the preparation based on the child’s age and personality, but most children benefit from clear, age-appropriate communication. Here are some ideas that can help:

Ages 5 to 7:

  • Give a brief step-by-step description of what to expect.
  • Rely on the power of play. Little kids process their emotions through play, so send some stuffed animals or dolls to the “doctor” or “nurse” for their vaccines before it’s time for the kids to go!
  • Keep their hands busy and their minds occupied to work through their anticipatory anxiety.
  • Apply ice to the injection site before and after the shot.
  • Encourage them to have a light snack before the appointment.

Ages 8 to 11:

  • Kids in this age group might have more detailed questions. Give honest answers and seek additional information if you aren’t sure how to answer. Empathize with them and listen to their concerns.
  • Empower your big kids to write a list of questions to ask the nurse or doctor at the appointment to ease their worries.
  • Have your child create a playlist to listen to during the appointment.
  • Plan to watch an interesting video (cue it up so you don’t have to search!) or use a favorite app.
  • Encourage them to have a light snack before the appointment.

Needle fear can be common for children. See the Frequently Asked Questions below for more tips on how to help make vaccination as easy as possible for your child.

Booking your Child’s COVID-19 Vaccine

Children ages 5-11 are eligible for a COVID vaccine as soon as Friday, November 26.

You can now book your eligible child into any of our clinics, or visit a participating pharmacy, or check to see if your healthcare provider is offering it. *Note: we are not using the Provincial portal for clinic bookings. Please use our online portal instead.

We have reserved some of our clinics for children/youth (ages 5-25) only. You can book your child an appointment at one of these clinics by using this link or calling 1-844-369-1234. These specialized clinics will allow for more time per vaccination and have special supports in place for this age group. If these clinic dates or locations do not work for you, children can also book into any of our available clinics, or receive their vaccine from a pharmacy or healthcare provider.

Specific Child and Youth Clinic Dates:

  • Brockville Shopping Centre (125 Stewart Boulevard – Unit #6):
    • Friday, December 10 – 12:00pm–7:00pm
    • Sunday, December 12 – 10:00am–4:00pm
    • Saturday, December 18 – 10:00am–4:00pm
    • Wednesday, December 29 – 10:00am–4:00pm
  • Smiths Falls Memorial Centre:
    • Saturday, December 11 – 10:00am–4:00pm
    • Saturday, December 18 – 10:00am–4:00pm
    • Thursday, December 30 – 10:00am–4:00pm

Second doses are recommended 8 weeks after the first dose. You can book the second dose appointment on-site after your child receives their first dose. A single dose does not provide adequate protection so it is important to get the second dose.

Information Sheets and Consent Forms:

Check out this vaccine clinic tour video from our summer clinics for a sneak peak at what to expect!

What to bring to the appointment:

  • Child’s health card/OHIP card (even if it’s expired). If no health care is available – bring another form of ID like a birth certificate if possible.
  • Immunization record (if available)
  • Something to distract and pass the time (headphones with music, electronics, book, favourite stuffy or fidget toy)
  • Small peanut-free snack for after
  • Mask that covers the mouth, nose and chin
  • Child should wear a loose fitting or short sleeved top with easy access to the upper arm
  • A parent or guardian (parental or guardian consent is required)

Frequently Asked Questions

COVID-19 infection can cause serious illness and death in any child. COVID-19 infection can cause myocarditis/pericarditis and other inflammatory syndromes in children. We are still learning about ‘Long-COVID’, but early studies show 1 to 4 out of every 100 children with a COVID-19 infection had lasting symptoms. Children can get ‘Long-COVID’ even after a mild illness.

The side effects reported from the children’s vaccine are similar, but less frequent, than those reported for adults. Sore arm, tiredness, chills and muscle aches were the most common.

No new adverse effects from the vaccine were found in the clinical trials for children. The risk of myocarditis or pericarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle or the sac around the heart) is much higher from a COVID-19 infection than it is from the vaccine. So far there have been no reports of myocarditis or pericarditis from the vaccine in this age group. The risk of an allergic reaction to the vaccine is also very low. Children with allergies to foods, drugs, insect stings, or other vaccines can safely get mRNA COVID-19 vaccines.

When completing the school or childcare screening tool – if your child got the COVID-19 vaccine in the last 48 hours and is experiencing mild fatigue or muscle/joint aches that only began after vaccination, you can select “No” for the question about symptoms.  

Long-term side effects are not expected from mRNA COVID-19 vaccines. Vaccine side effects tend to occur in the first 6 weeks. mRNA vaccines have been studied in humans since 2013 with no known long-term effects. The mRNA in the Covid-19 vaccine is broken down by the body in 2 to 3 days, and the spike protein may stay in the body for up to 2 to 3 weeks.

The Pfizer vaccine for children uses a lower dose. The vaccine used for teens and adults has 30 micrograms of mRNA. The vaccine for children has 10 micrograms. Smaller vaccine doses are often used for children. They work well because children have stronger immune responses than adults.

The children’s Pfizer vaccine has also been formulated to be more stable and easier to store.

Yes. Children in this age group are unlikely to be able to understand the benefits and risks in detail enough to consent themselves. A parent or guardian must be present for them to receive their vaccine.

We won’t force a child to be vaccinated. Public Health Nurses are experienced and skilled at giving children vaccinations. If a child is strongly opposed, the parent may need to bring them back another time to try again. See the tips above for *How to Prepare* or the FAQ below on dealing with needle fear.

No. The Province of Ontario is not mandating this as a required vaccine to attend school or childcare.

Children will receive the appropriate dose for their age at the time of vaccination. If they are 11 for the first dose they will receive the child dose, if they are 12 for their second dose – they can receive the adult sized dose. Even if they receive the smaller dose as the second dose – they will still be considered fully vaccinated. Children’s immune systems are efficient at mounting strong immune responses to vaccines.

A very small number of cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and/or pericarditis (inflammation of lining outside the heart) following vaccination have been reported. Most cases occurred in young adult males between 18 and 30 years of age after the second dose of vaccine, and most had mild illness and recovered quickly. Myocarditis/pericarditis following COVID-19 mRNA vaccines remains a rare adverse event following immunization, and has not yet been reported in any children in the 5-11 age category. The child dose is much smaller (1/3) that of the youth or adult dose which may explain why it has not been seen as a side effect. Myocarditis and pericarditis are 16 times more likely to occur after a COVID-19 infection than after COVID-19 vaccines.

Currently, Ontario is recommending to wait 14 days before and 14 days after your child has received any other immunizations to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. This recommendation is out of an abundance of caution, in order to be able to attribute any adverse reactions to the appropriate vaccine. Parents can choose to get other vaccines given closer than this time period if it benefits their child. We recommend discussing this with your healthcare provider if you are concerned about the wait time and scheduling other vaccinations like the seasonal flu shot for your child. This wait time is no longer needed for adult or youth immunizations due to the abundance of data collected.

People with allergic reactions to other vaccines and medicines can, in fact, get the COVID-19 vaccine. Currently, only those individuals with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine itself, or its container, are not advised to receive the COVID-19 vaccine because of the potential for allergic reactions. That would probably amount to a very small number of people. Please consult your child’s healthcare provider prior to receiving the vaccine if you think they may be allergic to a component of the vaccine.

Children with a history of anaphylaxis (severe allergic responses) to non-vaccine ingredients, like foods or latex, can receive the vaccine, but they would be monitored for a longer period on-site after receiving it.

No. The vaccine does not contain any COVID-19 virus and it is impossible to get a COVID-19 infection from the vaccine. The Pfizer/Comirnaty vaccine is an mRNA vaccine that provides your own immune system with the blue-print to make a tiny piece of the COVID-19 virus (the spike protein on the outside). Your immune system then learns how to fight that part of the virus and remembers how to do it if it ever encounters the real COVID-19 virus. The mRNA (blueprint) then disappears completely and all that is left is a stronger immune system.

The body starts its work to build immunity against COVID-19 right away, but it takes 2 weeks to take effect. Some protection is provided 2 weeks after the first dose, but optimal protection from being fully vaccinated comes 2 weeks after the second dose is received. Clinical trial data for children showed that the vaccine mirrored the effectiveness data for adults, with 2 doses providing 91% protection against infection from the original COVID-19 strain and 83% protection for the Delta variant.

Needle fear is not uncommon for children. Clear, age-appropriate communication about why it’s needed and what to expect at the clinic can be helpful. See the *How to Prepare* heading above and check out these tips on additional ways to ease children’s anxiety around vaccination:

  • Plan ahead and be honest. Use neutral language and give age-appropriate information.
  • Use numbing cream (see FAQ about proper application below).
  • Have child in an upright, relaxed and supported position (could be on parent’s lap – facing forward, inward or sideways).
  • Use distraction! Focus on something fun, engaging and interactive during vaccination. This can be as simple as blowing on a pinwheel, watching a short video or counting lines on the floor.
  • Talk about what went well afterwards. This focus on the positive will help to prepare for the second dose as well as future vaccinations.

Check out this handout from Immunize Canada: Needles Don’t Have to Hurt

Most children won’t need this extra step, but it can certainly help ease the anticipation of any pain for some. Also called topical anesthetics, these creams help to numb the skin where the needle will be inserted. They can be purchased over the counter from any pharmacy and come as a patch or in a tube.

They typically need to be applied to the skin 30 to 60 minutes before the needle, so applying the numbing cream is often something that can be done at home, and later removed at the clinic. Insider tip: Some kids don’t like having the patch removed because it’s like taking off a bandage. Instead, you can apply the numbing cream and wrap the area with cling wrap. To be sure the numbing cream is applied in the right place on the body, check ahead with a pharmacist or health-care provider to find out where the shot will be injected.

Clinic staff are very experienced in giving vaccines. Letting staff know upon arrival is helpful to support you and your child during the vaccine appointment. The vaccine clinics have private spaces that have reclining chairs or floor mats that can be used if needed.

Kids and adults who typically feel faint when getting needles can use a muscle tension exercise to help avoid fainting and feel less light-headed. To use this technique, clench your toes and tighten your leg and stomach muscles for about 15 seconds until your cheeks feel flush. Then release for 5 seconds (without fully relaxing) before tensing again and repeating until the needle is over or you stop feeling faint.

Children with underlying health conditions can be at higher risk of severe consequences from COVID-19 infection. If you have questions about your child’s risk level or vaccine safety – talk directly to your healthcare provider or book an online consultation with a healthcare professional through SickKids Hospital: COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service (sickkids.ca)

There is no evidence that COVID-19 vaccines affect fertility, and no plausible biologic mechanism for it to do so either. Thousands of people have gone on to have healthy post-vaccine pregnancies. There are studies that show that the vaccine does not affect ovarian function, egg quality, embryo implantation or sperm count/quality. There have been reports of short-term menstrual cycle changes, but vaccines do not impact fertility, genes (DNA), or hormone levels.

Additional resources:

No. These vaccines will be accessed through our fixed site clinics and through our smaller community clinics. Some specific children and youth only clinics are being held in December, but eligible children are welcome to book an appointment or walk-in to any available clinic as well.

There are 2 options for children who cannot attend a regular clinic.

  • Children with complex health care needs or who have an extreme needle phobia may benefit from the in-home vaccine program provided by local paramedics. Your health care provider or the Health Unit can make this referral.
  • CHEO also has a Kids Come First special clinic for children:
    • with a history of anaphylaxis (severe allergy requiring epi-pen)
    • who have medical complexities or who are technology-dependent that makes it difficult to attend a community clinic (ex: tracheostomy &ventilator or uncontrolled seizure disorder)
    • who have immunosuppression
    • with conditions that makes it challenging to be in crowded spaces (anxiety, autism)
    • with other medical reasons that are not listed above but make it challenging to be vaccinated in the community

No. Children who weigh more or who are nearly 12 do not need bigger doses. Vaccine doses are not based on weight.

There aren’t any COVID-19 vaccines approved for children younger than age 5 right now in Canada. Younger children and infants can be protected by everyone around them being vaccinated.

Do you have a question that is not answered here? Check out our main Vaccine Webpage, call us at 1-844-369-1234, or talk to your health care provider.

Additional resources:

Youth ages 12-17 (born in 2009 or before) have been eligible to receive both doses of COVID-19 Vaccine since June of 2021. If your child has not received both doses yet – you can book at any of our clinics or a local participating pharmacy. While both Pfizer and Moderna are approved for this age group, the Province of Ontario recommends youth up to the age of 24 receive Pfizer. If you have questions or concerns about the vaccine – check out the resources below on this page, talk to your health care provider, or book an online consultation session with a health care professional from SICK Kids hospital.

  • Check out this vaccine clinic tour video to see what to expect.
  • Most youth ages 12-17 are able to give their own consent to receive the vaccine, but are welcome to bring a parent/guardian or other support person to accompany them for their appointment. *Note: parental consent is required if the vaccine is administered in a school setting or if the youth does not have capacity to make the decision.
  • See the FAQ sections on this page (for ages 5-11) and the main Vaccine Webpage (all ages) for more information.

Youth Resources Page

This past year has been tough. #KnowWhereToGo for help: A comprehensive listing of mental health resources for youth.

Provincial Government Links