5 things you should know about the COVID-19 vaccine for kids

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Health Canada has approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11 years old. This means that the vaccine will be available in Canadian provinces soon (Note: The vaccine is now available in Manitoba – updated on December 1, 2021).

If you have a young child and have questions about the vaccine, here are few things you should know:

  1. Is the vaccine safe?

    Yes, it is safe.

    The vaccine went through rigorous review before it received the approval of Health Canada. The trial of the vaccine was also done this summer in expanded populations to make sure that they would be able to detect any potential side effects, like myocarditis or pericarditis, which involve swelling around the heart. There has been no reported cases of these side effects thus far.

    Pfzer’s clinical data also showed that the vaccine is 91 per cent effective against COVID-19 in this age group.

    It is understandable that as a parent, the safety of the vaccine is a major concern. You can learn more about this vaccine, how it was tested, what is in it, and other facts from reliable sources. Go to Health Canada and ProtectMB. You can also consult your pediatrician or family doctor directly if you have more questions.

  2. Why should my child get the vaccine?

    Your child should get the vaccine because:

    • It will lessen the chance they’ll get infected. Although children are less likely than adults to get COVID-19, they can still get it. In fact, people under 18 make up one-third of new cases in Manitoba (16% of these are children ages five to 11).
    • It will lessen the possibility of getting long COVID or getting hospitalized. Children who have COVID-19 can have milder cases but can go on to experience long COVID symptoms that can have an impact on their activities or learning for months. There have also been cases where children ended up in the hospital because of COVID-19.
    • It will lessen transmission of the virus. Children who may have had mild COVID-19 symptoms can spread the virus to others in their school or at home.
    • It will slow the 4th wave. Having everyone vaccinated in the population is the key to controlling the spread of the virus. It also reduces the chances that new strains will develop. The sooner all eligible Manitobans are immunized, the sooner everyone can back to normal activities and regular lifestyles.
  3. How will the vaccine be given to kids?

    Just like the previous COVID-19 vaccine for adults, kids will be vaccinated through shots (injections). Children will also need two doses to be considered fully immunized. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that the two doses be given at least eight weeks apart. Unlike the previous doses, however, kids will only get one-third the size, or 10 micrograms instead of 30. This is a common practice in vaccines for younger children according to Dr. Joss Reimer, medical lead of Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force.

    Parents should also note that the pediatric version of the vaccine will have an orange cap instead of purple. This was done so that the immunizers can easily see which one to use.

  4. Are there side effects?

    It is possible that your child may feel side-effects from the vaccine. Common side-effects include redness and swelling at the injection site, headaches and fatigue. Most of the side effects observed in the trial were mild to moderate and resolved quickly on their own.

    According to Dr. Marni Hanna, president of the Manitoba Pediatric Society, they may also experience fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, achy joints, or less commonly, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting and that is most likely to happen within 48 hours of getting the vaccine. These effects were less common in the trials for five to 11-year-olds compared to those who were over 12. She also said that parents can give their kids Tylenol or Advil if they experience these side effects.

  5. Where can my child get the vaccine?

    The vaccine will be available at:

    • Provincial and regional vaccine clinics
    • Physicians’ offices
    • Pharmacies
    • Urban indigenous clinics
    • Pop-up community clinics
    • In schools (COVID-19 Immunization Consent Forms will be given to parents and must be returned before the vaccine is administered).

    Parents can directly call these establishments/sites to book an appointment when the vaccine becomes available in Manitoba. You can also book online or by going to ProtectMB. To find the nearest place to get a vaccine, use Manitoba’s online vaccine finder map.

 
Article updated December 1, 2021.
 
Sources: Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5-11 approved by Health Canada, Leslie Young, Global News; Your kid is eligible to get a COVID-19 vaccine in Manitoba. Now what? CBC News; COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5-11, Protect MB. Accessed November 19, 2021. Doctors Manitoba town hall addresses concerns around pediatric COVID-19 vaccine, Danton Unger, CTV News. December 1, 2021.

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