Vaccines for children: COVID-19

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Making the decision to vaccinate

As a parent or guardian, you want what's best for your child. It's normal to ask questions about COVID-19 vaccines before making a decision.

If you need more specific or detailed information or have questions, consult a health care provider. You can also find information on your provincial, territorial or local public health authority's website.

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Impacts of COVID-19 on children and youth

Vaccines continue to offer strong protection against the most severe outcomes of COVID-19.

While most infected children and youth have mild symptoms and are less likely to get really sick from COVID-19, some can still:

Getting children in your care vaccinated with a COVID-19 vaccine will increase their protection against severe COVID-19 outcomes and illness.

Children and youth at higher risk

Children and youth with certain underlying medical conditions may have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19. It's especially important for children at high risk to stay up to date with their vaccines.

These underlying medical conditions may include:

Children who have multiple (2 or more) long-lasting conditions are at also higher risk for severe COVID-19. If you don't know if your child is at increased risk of severe outcomes because of an underlying medical condition, ask a health care provider.

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Importance of vaccines

Vaccines help lower your child's risk of getting seriously sick from COVID-19. They work with the body's natural defences to develop protection against disease. The COVID-19 vaccine makes the immune system create antibodies and immune memory. This allows the body to remember the virus and react quickly to fight infection before kids can get really sick.

When to vaccinate children and youth

All children and youth aged 6 months to 17 years can receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Only mRNA vaccines are approved for use in children and youth.

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Children 6 months to 11 years of age

Two vaccine doses at least 8 weeks apart are recommended for children in Canada.

COVID-19 vaccines for children use a smaller dose than those for people who are 12 years of age and older. Children who turn 12 before their second dose in a primary series should receive the higher dose to complete their primary series.

Youth 12 to 17 years of age

Two COVID-19 vaccine doses 8 weeks apart are recommended for youth 12 years of age and older.

Booster doses

A booster dose or additional dose may be offered to youth 12 to 17 years of age. Youths 12 to 17 years of age at high risk are strongly recommended to get a booster dose. A booster dose should be given 6 months from the last dose of the primary series.

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Children and youth who are immunocompromised

Children ages 6 months to 5 years of age who are moderately to severely immunocompromised may be offered 3 doses of COVID-19 vaccine. Children over the age of 5 years old who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should receive 3 doses. The recommended interval is 4 to 8 weeks between each dose.

After having COVID-19, it's recommended to wait 4 to 8 weeks to receive the next dose in a primary series.

Parents and caregivers of moderately to severely immunocompromised children and youth are encouraged to speak with a health care provider to learn more about vaccination and other ways to protect them against COVID-19.

Vaccination after being infected with COVID-19

Those who have already had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated to:

Children and youth who experienced COVID-19 before any primary series dose should wait:

Youth 12 to 17 years of age may be offered a booster dose:

In some circumstances, they may be eligible to receive a booster dose after 3 months.

Children and youth who are immunocompromised are recommended to wait 4 to 8 weeks after having COVID-19 to receive the next dose in a primary series.

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Possible side effects

Side effects are expected as your body responds to a vaccine. Side effects for children and youth are similar to those for adults.

Some people have no side effects while others may have some type of reaction. Reactions are most often mild and go away by themselves within hours or days. The COVID-19 vaccine ingredients are no longer in the body after a few days. Only the immune response to protect against COVID-19 remains.

Common vaccine side effects may include:
Symptoms at the injection site, such as: More general symptoms, such as:
  • redness
  • soreness
  • swelling
  • chills
  • fatigue
  • joint pain
  • headache
  • mild fever
  • muscle aches

Rare reactions that have been reported

As with all vaccines, there's a very small chance that there will be a serious side effect.

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Safety and monitoring

Millions of children in Canada and around the world have safely received COVID-19 vaccines, but rare reactions have been reported.

For the clinical trials, Health Canada conducted a detailed review of the immune response, and the safety and effectiveness of the vaccines.

In these studies:

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Ongoing monitoring for safety

Vaccine safety monitoring doesn't stop after approval of a COVID-19 vaccine.

Canada's strong vaccine safety monitoring system continually works to detect any possible rare side effects that didn't appear in the clinical trials.

Canada also has a safety surveillance system in place that's specifically designed for monitoring pediatric vaccinations. The Immunization Monitoring Program ACTive (IMPACT) is a pediatric, hospital-based network administered by the Canadian Paediatric Society. It has been used to monitor childhood vaccination for more than 20 years.

In addition, monitoring is also done by:

These organizations continue to monitor the COVID-19 vaccines for safety as they become more widely used in Canada and around the world.

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Have a positive vaccination experience

Families may have concerns about vaccination. Knowing what to expect can help ease worries and make vaccination a positive experience for your family.

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Have a family discussion about vaccination

Talk to children and youth about the importance of getting vaccinated.

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Protect unvaccinated children

Regardless of your vaccination status, continue to:

It's important to respect choices made by caregivers. We'll continue to provide updates as more data emerges to help caregivers make an informed decision about COVID-19 vaccination.

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