COVID-19 vaccination for youth 12 to 17 years old

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What vaccine will youth 12 to 17 years of age get? 

Youth 12 to 17 years of age will be offered either the Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty™) or Moderna (Spikevax™) COVID-19 vaccine. Both of these vaccines have been approved by Health Canada for this age group. The vaccines are safe for youth, and they work. 

Are the vaccines safe? How were they tested and approved for youth?

The Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) and Moderna (Spikevax) COVID-19 vaccines are safe for youth. Since approval, over two million youth in Canada and over 250,000 youth in BC aged 12 to 17 have received a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. 
There is a very strict process to test and approve vaccines in Canada. The Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) mRNA vaccine was tested in youth aged 12 to 15 through clinical trials that included more than 2200 teens. The Moderna (Spikevax) vaccine was tested on more than 3700 teens aged 12 to 17. The clinical trials compared the immune response, safety, and effectiveness of the vaccine to a placebo. Health Canada reviewed the data from the clinical trials and approved the vaccines after determining that: 
  • They are safe.
  • They are effective (they work).  
  • The benefits of the vaccines outweigh any risks. 
Once a vaccine is approved and begins to be used, its safety is continuously monitored. The purpose of this ongoing monitoring is to identify any possible side effects that were too rare to appear in the clinical trials. When millions of people receive a vaccine, rare side effects may be detected. 
 *As of Nov 19, 2021 Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) has also been approved for use in children aged 5 to 11. 

What are the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination for youth?

Vaccination helps keep youth safe and is the best way to protect youth 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. Unfortunately, with the Delta and Omicron variants, we are seeing more youth getting sick and being hospitalized with COVID-19.
Some youth may continue to feel sick for weeks or months after the initial illness. This is called Post-COVID-19 condition or “long COVID”. Early studies suggest that "long COVID" is less common in children and young people than adults. 
Vaccinating youth also helps: 
  • Protect family members, including siblings who are too young to get vaccinated and family members who may be at increased risk of getting very sick if infected. 
  • Reduce the spread of the virus in the community. This helps protect people who are most at risk of getting really sick from COVID-19, such as the elderly.
  • Reduce the risk of new variants of concern appearing. We don’t know if there will eventually be a variant of concern that causes more serious illness in children and youth. 
  • Give youth an added layer of protection in school or while participating in sports, playdates, and other group activities.
  • Prevent youth from having to self-isolate in some cases if exposed to COVID-19. Follow the advice from the BCCDC.

Have a positive vaccination experience.

Vaccines can cause some pain, stress, and anxiety for children and youth of all ages. 

What are the 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. 
  • The most common side effects reported by youth are pain where the vaccine was given, tiredness, headache, chills, and muscle aches. 
  • Other common side effects of COVID-19 vaccines may include redness, soreness, swelling where the vaccine was given, joint pain, and mild fever.
  • 99.9% of people who received the mRNA vaccines did not report any serious side effects. 
  • In very rare cases, myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and pericarditis (inflammation of the outer lining of the heart) 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 1 in a million people. Should this reaction occur, healthcare providers are prepared to treat it. 

Where can I find more information?

Date last reviewed: 
Wednesday, Jan 19, 2022