Vaccines for children: COVID-19

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Vaccines approved for children and youth

Health Canada has authorized the following mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for youth aged 12 and older:

People aged 12 to 17 may receive the same 2-dose schedule recommended for adults.

At this time, no COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for use in children under the age of 12 in Canada. Clinical trials are underway to determine if:

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How the vaccines are studied and tested for children and youth

The mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were tested in youth through clinical trials that compared the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine to a placebo. They also compared safety and effectiveness across different age groups. These studies:

In phase 3 clinical trials, the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines were very effective at preventing COVID-19 with symptoms in youth aged 12 to 17.

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Vaccine manufacturers will continue to collect information about safety from clinical trial participants. Canada’s vaccine safety monitoring system will also help to detect any possible rare side effects that didn’t appear in the clinical trials.

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Importance of vaccination

Although children and youth are less likely to get really sick from COVID-19, they can still:

Children and youth with certain underlying medical conditions may have a higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

COVID-19 vaccines help the body fight off the virus. Once fully vaccinated, people who get infected with COVID-19 will likely have no symptoms or mild symptoms. Like adults, youth are well protected against severe illness 14 days after their second dose. Those who have already had COVID-19 may still get vaccinated to protect themselves from getting it again.

Millions of people aged 12 to 17 have received COVID-19 vaccines in Canada. High rates of vaccination coverage across the country is key to:

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Ask the experts COVID-19 vaccine questions

Watch videos of medical experts answering your questions about COVID-19 vaccines

Possible side effects

Side effects are part of the body's natural response to a vaccine.

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.

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

Myocarditis and pericarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle and its lining)

We continue to monitor the evolving information about the link between myocarditis, pericarditis and mRNA vaccines, including among vaccinated youth. Cases have been reported in a small number of people in Canada and internationally.

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Have a positive vaccination experience

Young people may have concerns about vaccination. Knowing what to expect can help ease worries and make it 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.

  • Tell them about vaccination using age-appropriate language.
  • Tell them what will happen and how it will feel.
  • Communicate using neutral language.
    • Try using words such as 'pressure' or 'poke' to describe how it might feel.
    • Avoid misleading information like 'it won't hurt.'
  • Answer their questions and tell them what you'll do to help make it a better experience.
  • Teach them about false information, and make sure they know to:
    • ask questions if they aren't sure
    • verify information before sharing it with others

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At the vaccination appointment

For the vaccination appointment, pick coping strategies based on each child’s needs and preferences. Try:

  • distraction (such as toys, games, music, talking or singing)
  • relaxation techniques (such as deep belly breathing)
  • medication that numb the skin (topical anesthetic)
    • this medication dulls the sensation from the needle, and you can get it from the pharmacy without a prescription
    • medication should be applied 30 to 60 minutes before the appointment, so plan ahead

If your child is very afraid of needles, talk to your health care provider about it. They might suggest treatment with an expert such as a psychologist. Treating needle fear can help children to accept vaccination and other needle procedures.

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How to get vaccinated

You'll need to find a vaccine clinic through your province or territory.

Find a vaccine clinic

Protect unvaccinated children

Children under 12 aren’t eligible for vaccination at this time. They can still get infected with COVID-19, become ill and pass the virus on to others. This is why it’s important that every eligible person around them gets fully vaccinated.

When you’re with others outside of your immediate household, assess everyone’s risk and comfort level. Determine if extra preventive practices are needed, such as:

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Life after vaccination

Whether they’ve been vaccinated or not, everyone in your family should continue to follow local public health recommendations.

Getting youth fully vaccinated as soon as they’re eligible will help them get back to what they love and need for their physical and mental health, including:

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