COVID-19 vaccine information for children ages 6 months to 4 years

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

Looking for information specific to youth ages 12 to 17? Visit our COVID-19 vaccines for youth ages 12 to 17 page

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

Key points:

  • COVID-19 vaccines are safe for young children and provide good protection against severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19.
  • Most children with COVID-19 have mild disease or no symptoms at all; however, some children get severe disease and need to be hospitalized.  
  • The Moderna vaccine is approved for children 6 months to 5 years of age and the Pfizer vaccine is approved for children 6 months to 4 years of age.
  • In BC, children 6 months to 4 years of age are routinely offered the Moderna vaccine. 
  • Young children get a smaller dose of the same vaccine used for youth and adults.
  • Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines are usually mild. Serious side effects are very rare.
  • It is much safer to get the vaccine than to get COVID-19.

 

You need to register your child with the provincial Get Vaccinated system to get an invitation to book your child's appointment. 

 

Why should my young child get the COVID-19 vaccine?

Vaccination helps keep children safe and is the best way to protect children from severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19. There has been an increase in hospital and ICU admissions in young children since Omicron became the most common variant. 
 
While most children who get COVID-19 have a minor illness, some children (including previously healthy children) can get very sick. The chance of getting very sick is higher for children who are not fully vaccinated or have certain medical conditions. 
 
Children who get COVID-19:
 
  • Can get a severe lung infection and heart issues like myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). Myocarditis can occur when a virus, such as the common cold, influenza (flu) or SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) infects the body.
  • Are at risk of developing 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. It can happen several weeks after infection and usually requires hospitalization. Most children in Canada who have had this condition have fully recovered with treatment. 
  • While the evidence is limited in children younger than 5, COVID-19 infection may lead to post-COVID condition or "long COVID." This is where people feel sick for weeks or months after the initial illness.
Vaccinating children can also help protect others, including family members and those most at risk. Vaccination can also make it less likely that children will miss out on important activities, like daycare, preschool, sports, and social events.
 
Read why BC Children’s Hospital doctors recommend the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

What vaccines are available for children 6 months - 4 years of age?

Health Canada has approved the Moderna vaccine for children 6 months to 5 years of age and the Pfizer vaccine for children 6 months to 4 years of age.
 
In BC, children 6 months to 4 years of age are routinely offered the Moderna vaccine. This is because the Moderna vaccine requires one less dose to complete the primary (initial) series than the Pfizer vaccine, which means children will be protected sooner. 
 
The Pfizer vaccine will not be routinely available at vaccine clinics. If a parent or guardian would like their child to receive the Pfizer vaccine, they can contact the provincial call centre at 1-833-838-2323 to request it.
 
Children who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should get the Moderna vaccine.

 

How many doses of vaccine does my child need?

The Moderna vaccine is given as a 2-dose primary series to children 6 months to 5 years of age and a 3-dose primary series to those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.
 
The Pfizer vaccine is given as a 3-dose primary series to children 6 months to 4 years of age and a 4-dose primary series to those who are moderately to severely immunocompromised.
 
Children who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should get the Moderna vaccine.
 
Scientists are still determining if children 6 months to 4 years of age will need a booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

 

What is the dosage for young children? 

Young children get a smaller dose of the same vaccine used for youth and adults. Young children only need a small dose of vaccine to develop a similar level of protection against serious illness as adults.

The Moderna vaccine for children 6 months to 5 years of age is a 25 microgram dose, which is a quarter of the dosage adults get. The Pfizer vaccine for children 6 months to 4 years of age is a 3 microgram dose, which is one-tenth the dosage adults get. 

 

Should my child get vaccinated if they have already had COVID-19?

Even if your child already had COVID-19 and recovered, they should still get vaccinated. Previous infection provides some protection but studies in adults show that vaccination following infection provides stronger and longer-lasting protection. If your child was recently sick, they can get the vaccine once they are better, or they can delay getting the vaccine until 8 weeks after their symptoms started or they tested positive for COVID-19.
 

Are COVID-19 vaccines safe for young children?

Yes, COVID-19 vaccines are safe for young children. Every vaccine goes through intensive testing and must be shown to be safe and effective before it is approved for use and given to children. After a vaccine is approved for use, its safety is continuously monitored. 
 
Thousands of young children under the age of 5 took part in clinical trials for the Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. Both vaccines were shown to be safe for young children in clinical trials. 
 
Ongoing safety monitoring continues to show that COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are safe for young children. As of August 21, 2022, about 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 mRNA vaccines have been given to children 6 months to 5 years of age in the US. No safety concerns (including no cases of myocarditis) were reported after this many doses were given. 
 
Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines are usually mild and last 1-3 days. Serious side effects are extremely rare.
 
 
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. Once a vaccine is approved for use, its safety is continuously monitored. 

 

What are the side effects of COVID-19 vaccines in young children? 

Side effects are normal and are the result of the immune system responding to the vaccine. Some people have no side effects following COVID-19 vaccination, while others may have some type of side effect. Side effects are most often mild and go away by themselves within hours or days. Serious side effects are very rare.  
 
COVID-19 vaccine side effects in young children are similar to those in older age groups. Common vaccine side effects may include:
 
  • Redness, soreness, and swelling at the injection site.
  • More general symptoms such as chills, fatigue, joint pain, headache, mild fever, and muscle aches. 
Young children may seem fussy or tired after COVID-19 vaccination, similar to what they experience after other routine vaccines.
 
Rare cases of inflammation of the heart (myocarditis and pericarditis) have been reported after vaccination with COVID-19 mRNA vaccines in older age groups and is likely due to an exaggerated immune response. The rate of cases in younger children is much lower. In the US, this occurred at a rate of about 2.7 cases per 1,000,000 doses of Pfizer vaccine in males 5-11 years of age. Rates for children 6 months to less than 5 years of age are unknown at this time but it is expected that cases will be very rare and rates will be lower than the rates for those older than 5 years of age. 
 
The risk of myocarditis or pericarditis following mRNA vaccination is rare, relatively mild, and in most cases, resolves quickly with minimal, if any, medical treatment. On the other hand, in children and teens, the risk of getting COVID-19, and developing severe illness that could seriously impact the heart, are far greater than the risk of experiencing post-vaccine myocarditis. Learn more about myocarditis and weighing the risks in this article from the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.
 
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.
 
The known risks of COVID-19 illness (which include complications like myocarditis and pericarditis) outweigh the potential risk of having a serious side effect following vaccination. 
 
 
 

 

Have a positive vaccination experience 

Vaccines can cause some pain, stress, and anxiety for children 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. 
 

Jesse is going to get a COVID-19 vaccine and is a little nervous. Jesse brought a favourite toy and used belly breathing to feel calm. There was a tiny pinch on the arm, and it was over. That was easy! Jesse is now a COVID-19 vaccine superhero!

Print Jesse's story as a colouring page:

Read Jesse's story in colour!

Print and colour your own COVID-19 vaccine hero badge!

 

 

 
Date last reviewed: 
Thursday, Nov 03, 2022