COVID-19 Vaccines for Children
Preparing for vaccination
- Ministry of Health vaccine information sheet
- Ministry of Health vaccine Q & A English French
- Consent form
Before you book a COVID-19 vaccine appointment
- Ensure that your child hasn’t had another vaccine within the previous 14 days. Book their vaccine appointment at least 14 days after they receive other vaccinations.
- If your child has high anxiety about vaccination or requires a sensory friendly clinic, contact the COVID-19 Vaccine Hotline at (905) 974-9848, option 7 about local vaccination options.
- Talk to your child about the vaccine. Explain what it is for and how it helps.
Before you come to the vaccine clinic
- Make sure your child eats and drinks as usual, to prevent feeling faint or dizzy while being vaccinated.
- Make sure your child wears a loose-fitting/short sleeve t-shirt.
- Talk to your child about how to deal with anxiety and pain from the needle (see tips below). It is normal for children to be nervous about getting a needle.
- Pack a mask, favourite toy or stuffy, or download a show on your device to bring to the clinic.
- Make sure you have your child’s health card.
- Read and print the vaccine consent form if a parent/guardian will not be bringing the child to the vaccine clinic.
- Read and print the COVID-19 Pre-Assessment form (PDF, 62 KB) if a parent/guardian will not be bringing the child to the vaccine clinic.
- Read the COVID-19 vaccine information sheet and ask your doctor if you have any medical questions before getting the vaccine.
- Take any medications, as usual.
- Screen for COVID-19 symptoms. Do not attend the clinic if you/your child has symptoms.
Talk to your child about getting vaccinated
It is important to be open and honest with your children about COVID-19 and COVID-19 vaccines. Plan to have a discussion with your child about the vaccine. Read Toronto Public Health’s How to Talk to Kids about Getting Vaccinated to guide your discussion.
Talk to your child about fear of needles
Fear of needles is normal. Here are some tips to improve your child’s experience when getting a vaccine:
- Allow them to ask you or the clinic staff questions.
- Stay calm and assist with keeping your child calm.
- Have your child decide on an item that they can bring to distract them from the needle.
- Get comfortable – bring a comforting item, wear comfortable clothing that allows access to the upper arm, and sit in a comfortable position.
- Take deep breaths together and try to stay calm.
- Offer praise. Positive reinforcement works for kids of all ages.
Some clinics have additional supports such as ice, private areas, fidget toys, and other items to help with distraction and pain reduction. You can stay with your child when they receive their vaccine
There is no minimum age to consent to treatment in Ontario. Informed consent means that you understand what the vaccine involves, why it is recommended, and the risks and benefits of getting or not getting it. Parents or substitute decision makers of children aged five to 11 will usually have to provide consent on behalf of their child at the time of the appointment or fill out a paper consent form for their child.
As a parent or guardian, you should discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with your child. Your child needs to know about:
- Your views on health and the vaccine
- When and why they are getting a vaccine
The person who gives your child the vaccine needs to know:
- About any previous reactions to vaccines
- Health concerns, including medications they are taking and allergies to antibiotics or components of the vaccine
- The COVID-19 vaccine has been tested in clinical trials for children age 5 to 11.
- Health Canada conducted a thorough review of the study data for the use of the vaccine in this age group and have determined it is safe and effective.
- Health Canada will continue to monitor its safety.
- The COVID-19 vaccines are now approved under full authorization for people born in 2009 and earlier.
- The COVID-19 vaccine dose for children 5 to 11 years is lower than the dose for people age 12 and over (one-third dose). This is because younger children have better immune systems, and therefore require a smaller amount of vaccine to protect against COVID-19. The lower dose will reduce the side effects they may experience after getting the vaccine.
- If you have questions or concerns about vaccine safety for your child, talk to their health care provider.
Learn more about how vaccines are developed and approved.
COVID-19 Vaccine side effects
Children can experience side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine, similar to other vaccines. These side effects are part of their body’s efforts to build immunity to COVID-19 following vaccination. Common side effects include:
- Red or sore arm near the injection site
- Feel more tired than usual
- Achy muscles or joints,
- Fever and chills
These side effects are usually mild and go away within 1-3 days.
Information on vaccine side effects can be found in the FAQs
A very small number of cases of myocarditis and pericarditis (heart inflammation) were reported after getting the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. 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. No cases of myocarditis or pericarditis were found in the clinical trials among 5 to 11 year olds.
There is a greater risk of myocarditis or pericarditis if someone gets COVID-19 compared to getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Listen to Dr. Pernica from McMaster Children’s Hospital talk about COVID-19 vaccine side effects in children
Benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine
- The vaccine reduces the risk of getting COVID-19 infection and rare complications of COVID-19 such as Multi-System Inflammatory Condition (MIS-C).
- The vaccine reduces the risk of getting very sick and being hospitalized with COVID-19, and the risk of getting Long COVID.
- Some organizations may require proof of vaccination from those who are eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in order to participate in activities.
- Having more children vaccinated reduces the risk of outbreaks, and therefore prevents disruptions in school and activities.
Risks of COVID-19 in children
- Unvaccinated individuals are at the highest risk of getting COVID-19.
- Children who get infected with COVID-19 usually experience mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all. However, children have developed more severe symptoms and required hospitalization, even if they did not have other health conditions. Children can also develop Long COVID, where they experience symptoms long after the infection has cleared.
- Children can transmit COVID-19 to others, even if they do not develop symptoms.
Children should get vaccinated, even if they usually have milder symptoms
- Getting the COVID-19 vaccine will reduce the risk of getting COVID-19 infection and protect children from severe outcomes if they do.
- There have been some cases of severe illness and hospitalization in children.
- The vaccine will also help prevent the virus from spreading to other people. This makes going to school, being with family and friends, and participating in activities safer.
With so much information being shared about COVID-19, it can be hard to know what to believe. The Canadian Paediatric Society provides some helpful tips to help you evaluate your immunization information. You can also speak with your doctor or health care provider.
Frequently Asked Questions
If my child is almost 12 years old, which vaccine should they get?
Children who receive the pediatric formulation of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (10 mcg) for their first dose who turn 12 by the time of their second dose may receive the adolescent/adult formulation of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (30 mcg) for their second dose. If a child who has turned 12 by the time of their second dose receives the pediatric formulation (10 mcg), their series should still be considered valid and complete.
Will the COVID-19 vaccines cause reproductive health problems?
There is no evidence that any vaccines, including the COVID-19 vaccines, cause fertility problems (problems trying to get pregnant) or menstrual irregularities.
Why is the dose the same for all 5 to 11 year olds?
The effectiveness of a vaccine depends on the maturity of the immune system rather than body weight. For that reason, there are age-based dosing regimens for all vaccines.
- Book an appointment with SHN to speak with a doctor online or by phone 416-438-2911 ext. 5738
- Book an appointment with Sick Kids Hospital to speak with a pediatric nurse about COVID-19 vaccines for youth or by phone 437-881-3505
- Benefits & risks of COVID-19 youth vaccination (Canadian Pediatric Society)
- Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe for youth (Ontario Pediatricians)
- Ontario’s ethical framework for vaccine distribution
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