COVID-19 vaccine information for youth ages 12 to 17

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Looking for information specific to children? Visit our COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 page. 

Looking for general information on COVID-19 vaccines? Visit our COVID-19 vaccines general information page.

Key points: 

  • COVID-19 vaccines provide good protection against severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19. 
  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe. Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines are usually mild. Serious side effects are very rare.
  • Two mRNA vaccines, Pfizer and Moderna, are approved for youth 12 years of age and older.
  • It is much safer to get vaccinated than to get COVID-19.

Why should youth get vaccinated? 

Vaccination helps keep youth safe and is the best way to protect them from severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19. 
While most youth who get COVID-19 have a minor illness, some can get very sick. Some youth who get infected:
  • May feel sick for weeks or months after the initial illness. This is called Post-COVID-19 condition or "long COVID". 
  • Can develop a serious but rare condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C). MIS-C is caused by an exaggerated immune response, leading to severe widespread inflammation, and can happen several weeks after infection.
Vaccinating youth can also help protect others, including family members and those most at risk. Vaccination can also make it less likely that youth will miss out on important activities, like school, sports, and social events.


Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for youth? 

The Pfizer and Moderna mRNA vaccines are safe for youth. These vaccines were studied in youth in clinical trials and were shown to be safe and effective. Since approval, millions of doses of vaccine have been safely given to youth worldwide. Ongoing vaccine safety monitoring continues to show that the vaccines are safe and that they are effective at preventing severe illness for this age group.

COVID-19 vaccine side effects are most often mild and go away by themselves within hours or days. 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. Serious side effects are very rare. 
Common vaccine side effects may include:
  • Pain, redness, swelling  and itchiness where the vaccine was given.
  • More general symptoms, such as tiredness, headache, fever, chills, muscle or joint soreness, swollen lymph nodes under the armpit, nausea and vomiting. 

In very rare cases, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and pericarditis (inflammation of heart's outer lining) can occur. Most people recover quickly. The risk of heart complications, including myocarditis, is much greater after COVID-19 infection than after vaccination. 

A severe allergic reaction (called anaphylaxis) can happen after any vaccine, including COVID-19 vaccines, but this is rare and happens in about one in a million people. Should this reaction occur, health care providers are prepared to treat it.
There is a very strict process to test and approve vaccines in Canada. Health Canada only approves a vaccine if the data from clinical trials show the vaccine is safe and effective and that the vaccine's benefits outweigh any risks. After a vaccine is approved for use, its safety is continuously monitored. Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine safety and side effects from Health Canada


Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine safety for youth in the handout below from the BCCDC.


How many vaccine doses do youth need? 

  • Youth aged 12 to 17 need two doses of an mRNA vaccine. 
  • Three doses are recommended for some youth who are moderately to severely immunosuppressed. Learn who is eligible to receive a third dose.
  • Youth aged 12 to 17 are also eligible for a booster dose at least six months after their initial series. It is extra important to get a booster dose if you have a weakened immune system because of a medical condition or treatment. Learn about booster doses for youth ages 12 to 17.

Have a positive vaccination experience

Vaccines can cause some pain, stress, and anxiety for people of all ages.  Fortunately, there are many strategies that can be used before and during the vaccination appointment that can help make the vaccination experience better. 

Mature minor consent

In general, parental consent for health care in BC for children 12 years of age and younger. However, there is no legal age of consent for health care in BC. Children and youth under 19 years of age can legally consent to or refuse vaccinations on their behalf if they demonstrate capability. This is called "mature minor consent".
Learn more about mature minor consent in the handout below from the BCCDC.

Learn more:

Date last reviewed: 
Friday, Apr 29, 2022