COVID-19 vaccines FAQ for children ages 5 to 11

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Getting the vaccine

What COVID-19 vaccine will children aged 5 to 11 get?
 
Children in BC who are 5 to 11 years of age will be offered a Pfizer-BioNTech (CormirnatyTM) mRNA vaccine made for children their age. Health Canada approved this vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 on November 19, 2021.
 
The vaccine:
 
  • Works and is safe.
  • Is specially made for children.
  • Was tested in children 5 to 11 years of age.
  • Is a smaller dose than the vaccine given to those 12 years of age and older. 
You can register your child to get vaccinated with the Get Vaccinated System. After you register, you will receive a text, email, or phone call when it's your turn to book a vaccine appointment. 
 
How can I register my child to get vaccinated?


You can register your child to get vaccinated with the Get Vaccinated System
. You can register online or by phone. After you register, you will receive a text, email, or phone call when it's your turn to book a vaccine appointment. 

Who is eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine for children?

 

This vaccine is for any child between 5 and 11 years. If your child is 4 years old, you will not be able to get them vaccinated until after their 5th birthday. The vaccine is free, and your children do not need BC Care Cards to receive it.

My child or teen had COVID-19. Do they still need the vaccine? Won’t they be immune and have better protection from natural infection? 
 
Children and teens who have had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated. This is because not everyone develops a strong immune response (protection) after having COVID-19. Vaccination is the best way to help develop immunity and provide better and longer-lasting protection against current and future variants of the virus. 
 
Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is also a safer way to build protection than getting sick with COVID-19. While COVID-19 tends to cause mild illness in most children and teens, some children and teens (including those with underlying medical conditions) can get severely ill from COVID-19.
 
How can I help support a child who is afraid of needles? 

 

Vaccines can cause some pain, stress, and anxiety for children of all ages. Go to our reducing pain, stress, and anxiety with vaccinations section for tips on how to have a more positive vaccination experience. 

You can also contact your local health unit and ask to speak with a public health nurse about supports available in your area. 
 
How can I explain how the COVID-19 vaccination works to my children?

 

Explain that the vaccine helps make sure they don’t get sick by quickly fighting off the virus that causes COVID-19. The vaccine is so powerful that it even helps to protect the people around them, including their family and friends.  Kids Boost Immunity has videos that explain more. 


Dose & schedule 

Will children aged 5 to 11 get the same dose as youth and adults?

 

No. Children aged 5 to 11 will get a smaller dose. The Pfizer-BioNTech (CominartyTM) mRNA vaccine used for children aged 5 to 11 has 10 micrograms of mRNA. The vaccine used for youth and adults has 30 micrograms. The smaller dose works well because children have stronger immune responses than youth and adults. This means they can get a similar level of protection with a smaller dose.  The smaller dose may also mean a lower frequency of common reactions, such as redness and swelling at the injection site. 

Should children who weigh more get a bigger dose?

 

No. Vaccine doses are based on age, not a child’s size or weight. 

How many doses of the COVID-19 vaccine will children aged 5 to 11 get?

 

Most children aged 5 to 11 should get two doses of the vaccine about 8 weeks apart. Children in this age group who are moderately to severely immunosuppressed should receive a 3-dose primary series. A booster dose for this age group is not yet recommended.
 

Why is the time between dose one and two for 5- to 11-year-olds eight weeks, not the 21 days used in the clinical trials?

 

The eight-week interval in youth and adults has resulted in a stronger immune response, better protection against COVID-19 infection, and lower risk of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart). It is expected that it will be the same for 5- to 11-year-olds.
 

Can children get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as other vaccinations?
 

Yes. The COVID-19 vaccine can be given at the same time or any time before or after any other childhood vaccinations including the flu shot.

 

 

Risks of COVID-19 infection & benefits of vaccination 

 
Why should my child or teen get the COVID-19 vaccine when it typically causes mild illness in children and youth and is less effective against Omicron?
 
While COVID-19 tends to cause mild illness in most children, some children (including those with underlying medical conditions) can get severely ill from COVID-19. The Omicron variant spreads more easily from person to person, and more children and teens are becoming infected and being hospitalized with COVID-19. Some children who get infected 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.
  • Continue to feel sick 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. 
 
While vaccines are less effective at preventing infection from the Omicron variant (compared to other variants like Delta), current data suggests they provide good protection against serious illness and hospitalization due to Omicron.
 
  • Vaccination reduces the risk of children getting COVID-19 and spreading it to others, including more vulnerable family and community members.
  • Vaccination is very important, even for those who have previously been infected with COVID-19. While infection alone provides some protection, vaccination after infection helps improve the immune response and may provide better and longer-lasting protection against current and future variants of the virus.
 
 
What are the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination in children? 

 

Vaccination helps keep children safe and is the best way to protect children from severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19.  
 
While most children who get COVID-19 have a minor illness, some can get very sick. Unfortunately, with the Delta and Omicron variants, we are seeing more children getting sick and being hospitalized with COVID-19.
 
Some children 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 children 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. 
  • Give children an added layer of protection in school or while participating in sports, playdates, and other group activities.
In the video below, BC Children’s Hospital Infectious Disease Pediatric Physician Dr. Manish Sadarangani discusses the psychosocial impacts of COVID-19 on children and how vaccination can help. 
Video courtesy of BC Children’s Hospital
I heard that children and teens don’t transmit the COVID-19 virus to others. So how does my child or teen getting vaccinated help protect others?
 
Just like adults, children and teens can transmit (spread) COVID-19 to others. 
 
  • Early in the pandemic, children and teens were not often identified as spreaders of COVID-19. However, this was mostly because schools and activities were closed or not held in person.
  • Since things have opened up again, outbreaks among teens at camps, sporting events, and schools show that teens spread COVID-19.
  • Further, studies that looked at the risk of children and teens spreading COVID-19 to others in their households showed that they do spread the virus.
  • Children and teens can spread COVID-19 to others when they do not have symptoms.
Vaccination reduces the risk of children and teens getting COVID-19 and spreading it to others. 
 
 
 


Safety

Are mRNA COVID-19 vaccines safe for children aged 5 to 11? 
 
Health Canada has approved a Pfizer-BioNTech (Comirnaty) mRNA COVID-19 vaccine made for children 5 to 11 years old. This vaccine is safe for children in this age group. 
 
The vaccine was tested in children aged 5 to 11 through clinical trials that included more than 3,000 children. The clinical trials compared the immune response, safety, and effectiveness of the vaccine to a placebo. No safety issues were detected in the clinical trials.
 
Since approval, millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine have been given to children aged 5 to 11 around the world, and early safety data shows the vaccine is safe and that serious problems after vaccination are extremely rare.
 
A recent CDC report released December 31, 2021 provides safety findings after more than 8 million doses of vaccine were given to children aged 5 to 11 in the United States. The report shows that:
 
  • Vaccine side effects were common but mostly mild and brief and included things like pain at the injection site, fatigue, and headache (mild side effects are a normal sign the body is building protection). 
  • Cases of myocarditis appear to be rare among children in this age group; there were 11 verified reports of myocarditis after over 8 million vaccine doses were administered, and of these 11 children, all had recovered or were recovering at the time of the report. 
The safety of COVID-19 vaccines for children aged 5 to 11 (and all other age groups) will continue to be closely monitored in Canada and around the world. Learn more about how vaccine safety is monitored
 
In this video, Dr. Julia Orkin, a pediatrician at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), answers the question: How can anyone be sure a vaccine developed so quickly is safe? 
In the video below, BC Children’s Hospital Infectious Disease Pediatric Physician Dr. Manish Sadarangani discusses how mRNA vaccines have been researched for decades. 
Video courtesy of BC Children’s Hospital
 
What are the side effects of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in children aged 5 to 11? 

 

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 side effect.

Common vaccine side effects may include:

  • Pain, redness, and swelling where the vaccine was given. 
  • More general symptoms, such as fatigue, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, chills, and fever. 
A  CDC report released December 31, 2021 provides safety findings after more than 8 million doses of vaccine were given to children aged 5 to 11 in the United States. The report shows that:
 
  • Vaccine side effects were common but mostly mild and brief and included things like pain at the injection site, fatigue, and headache. 
  • Serious problems after vaccination were extremely rare.
In this video, Dr. Julia Orkin, a pediatrician at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), answers the question: What are the most common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine in children?
In the video below, BC Children’s Hospital Infectious Disease Pediatric Physician Dr. Manish Sadarangani discusses how there has been no concern around significant adverse events following COVID-19 vaccination in children ages 5-11.
Video courtesy of BC Children’s Hospital
 
Can mRNA vaccines cause myocarditis or pericarditis?  
 
In rare cases, people have experienced myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and pericarditis (inflammation of the lining around the heart) following vaccination with COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. 
 
  • These events have been reported in BC at a rate of about 1.5 per 100,000 doses of mRNA vaccines given.
  • The risk of myocarditis is much greater following COVID-19 infection than following vaccination.
  • The majority of affected people, even if hospitalized, have experienced relatively mild illness, responded well to conservative treatment, and recovered quickly.
Cases of myocarditis and pericarditis following COVID-19 mRNA vaccination occur:
 
  • Most commonly in adolescents and young adults (12 to 30 years of age).
  • Most often after the second dose. 
  • More often in males than females. 
  • More often after the Moderna vaccine than the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 
Myocarditis and pericarditis following vaccination in children 5 to 11 years of age:
 
No cases of myocarditis or pericarditis were observed in the Pfizer-BioNTech clinical trial in children 5 to 11 years of age. The trial included more than 3000 children. Since approval, millions of doses of the vaccine have been given to children aged 5 to 11 worldwide. When millions of doses are given, very rare side effects can be detected. 
 
A CDC report released December 31, 2021 looked at safety data after more than 8 million doses of vaccine were given to children aged 5 to 11 in the United States. According to the report:
 
  • Cases of myocarditis following vaccination appear to be rare among children 5 to 11 years of age. 
  • There were 11 verified reports of myocarditis after over 8 million vaccine doses were administered. 
  • Of these 11 children, all had recovered or were recovering at the time of the report. 

Symptoms of myocarditis and pericarditis to look out for:

  • Chest pain.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Feeling of a rapid or abnormal heart rhythm.
If your child experiences these symptoms, seek medical attention right away. Inform the health care provider that your child received a COVID-19 vaccine recently.
 
 
Are there long-term side effects of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in children? 

The medical and scientific community is confident in the long-term safety of the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines for several reasons:

  • The history of vaccines shows that delayed effects after vaccination can happen. But when they do, these effects tend to happen within six weeks of receiving a vaccine. This is why regulators in Canada and many other countries require at least eight weeks of safety data before approving a vaccine. The vaccines have now been in use for months, with over 2.7 billion doses given worldwide.
     
  • This is not new vaccine technology. The mRNA vaccines have been in development for many years and have been studied before for flu, Zika, rabies, and cytomegalovirus (CMV). In addition, cancer research has used mRNA to trigger the immune system to target specific cancer cells. Years of studying mRNA vaccines has shown no long-term side effects.
     
  • Canada’s vaccine safety system has proven time and again that the data necessary to get through the approval process is sufficient to prove safety, even for the long term. The end data and safety tests for the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines met the same standards as other vaccines that have been approved in Canada. 
When considering long-term risks, a COVID-19 infection is a much more serious concern. 
 
Can mRNA COVID-19 vaccines alter a person’s DNA? 
 
 
  • Location - mRNA is active in the cytoplasm of a cell, whereas DNA is protected in the cell’s nucleus. The mRNA CANNOT enter the nucleus, so the two nucleic acids are never in the same place in the cell.
     
  • Process - mRNA is not DNA. So if a person’s DNA were going to be altered, the RNA would have to be made into DNA. This would require a special enzyme that only exists in some viruses. Coronaviruses are not one of them, as they have only single-stranded RNA, which means that when they enter into a cell’s cytoplasm, they don’t need to be translated. Proteins (like the spike protein) can be made directly from the RNA.
     
  •  Stability - mRNA is not very stable. Its half-life in human cells is estimated in hours. For purposes of mRNA-based therapies, modifications have been developed to keep the molecule in cells long enough to allow for the therapy to be successful. But even with this, the mRNA will not lead to protein production for more than 10-14 days.
Are the spike proteins generated by the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines harmful?
 
There is no evidence that vaccine-generated spike proteins are harmful. 
 
  • The mRNA vaccines work by teaching our cells how to make a harmless spike protein that triggers an immune response inside our bodies. The body then makes antibodies to help you fight infection if the COVID-19 virus enters your body.
  • Some people are concerned that the spike proteins generated by COVID-19 vaccines can cause harm to the body’s organs or tissues. However, there is no evidence that the vaccine-generated spike proteins cause harm. 
  • COVID-19 infection, however, can damage many organs and tissues. It is important to focus on the right risk.
  • The vaccine-generated spike proteins don't last long in the body; the immune system quickly identifies, attacks, and destroys them.
  • Scientists estimate that the spike proteins, like other proteins our bodies create, may stay in the body for up to a few weeks.
 
Want to know more about this?
 
I heard reports that the COVID-19 vaccine has caused serious side effects and deaths in young children. Is this true?
 
The pediatric COVID-19 vaccine for children 5 to 11 years of age was shown to be safe in clinical trials, and there is now real-world safety data from Canada and the US showing that:
 
  • The vaccine is safe.
  • Side effects are mostly mild.
  • Serious side effects are rare.
While there have been reports of death in young children following COVID-19 vaccination in the US, there is no evidence that the vaccine caused the deaths. 
 
  • A vaccine’s safety is continuously monitored after approval through the reporting of adverse events (an adverse event is an unexpected medical event that happens after vaccination that may or may not have been caused by the vaccine). 
  • A report of a death or other adverse event following vaccination does not mean that the vaccine caused it.
  • All reports of adverse events are investigated to determine if the event was caused by the vaccine or by something else that happened around the same time the vaccine was given.
  • The reporting of adverse events helps keep vaccines safe and helps ensure that the benefits continue to outweigh any risks. 
  • For a vaccination program to continue, the benefits of the vaccine must outweigh any known or potential risks.

Learn more about how vaccine safety is monitored.

 
 


Reproductive health 

 
Can COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility?

COVID-19 vaccines do not cause infertility, and there is no scientific reason to believe that they will cause infertility. Recent studies have shown that they do not impact fertility. In response to the online rumours suggesting that COVID-19 vaccination may affect future fertility, the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada released a statement.
 
In this video, Dr. Julia Orkin, a pediatrician at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids), answers the question: Can the COVID-19 vaccine affect puberty or fertility in children? 
Can COVID-19 vaccines affect menstruation? 
 
The Canadian Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists states the following in regards to COVID-19 vaccination and the menstrual cycle:
 
“The menstrual cycle is a complicated process impacted by multiple factors including sleep, stress, infection, diet, and exercise. In fact, getting COVID-19 itself can impact the menstrual cycle, with more than 35% of women and persons who get COVID-19 noting changes in their menstrual cycle after infection.
 
While there are many theories around how changes in menstrual cycles may occur (e.g., inflammation) none have been proven. 
 
In the UK, over 41 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been given, with only 21,680 (0.0005%) of women per dose reporting changes in the menstrual cycles.
 
Other vaccines have not impacted the menstrual cycle. 
 
Studies to determine if the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine on menstrual cycle are ongoing, and if it does impact the menstrual cycle, we would expect it to be limited to one or two cycles. What we do know is that having a severe illness such as COVID-19 does impact the menstrual cycle and can impact the menstrual cycle for much longer.”
 


Informed consent 

Do children need a signed consent form to get the COVID-19 vaccine?
 
A COVID-19 consent form is not required. However, there are consent forms that the BCCDC has created that the clinic may choose to use. If a parent/guardian is unable to attend the clinic with the child, the form can be completed and brought with the child.
 
Who can give consent for a child to get their COVID-19 vaccine?
 
Parents or guardians typically provide consent for their child to be vaccinated. However, there are other individuals who may have the authority to consent to vaccination on behalf of the child, including foster parents and custodial caregivers (for example, a grandmother or aunt raising the child). A parent/guardian can also give another individual permission to give consent for their child’s vaccination. A note must be provided that includes the following information: 
 
  • Name of the parent/guardian
  • Name and date of birth of the child
  • Name of the individual given authority to consent
  • Date and signature of the parent/guardian who has given their authority to another individual
Only one parent or legal guardian is required to give consent. The process for collecting consent may be different depending on the immunization clinic you attend.
 

 

Other

What does the World Health Organization (WHO) say about children getting the COVID-19 vaccine? 
 
The WHO plays an important role in providing recommendations globally, not regionally. This means the WHO prioritization for vaccination at a global level may be different than that of Canada or BC, because they have to look at the big picture worldwide. 
 
The WHO (November 2021) states: “Children and adolescents tend to have milder disease compared to adults, so unless they are part of a group at higher risk of severe COVID-19, it is less urgent to vaccinate them than older people, those with chronic health conditions, and health workers.”   
 
This statement reflects the fact that, as a global community with a limited vaccine supply, it's more urgent to vaccinate people most at risk around the world, such as older people, those with chronic health conditions, and healthcare workers before we turn our attention to vaccinating those who are less at risk. 
 
We are fortunate in BC that we have vaccinated the majority of our population and still have vaccines, and we can offer them to children and youth. This is a privilege that much of the world does not have, which is why the WHO recommendation focuses on vaccinating those most at risk. 
References 5-11

Government of Canada 

Links to more scientific research and literature supporting the content in this FAQ can be found in the reference sections of the documents below. 
 

Canadian Paediatric Society

National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) 

USA Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

 
References 12-17

Government of Canada 

Links to more scientific research and literature supporting the content in this FAQ can be found in the reference sections of the documents below. 

Canadian Paediatric Society

National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) 

USA Centers for Disease Control (CDC)

 

 

Video: Talk to a Doc with Dr. Danièle Behn Smith: Should I get my child vaccinated?

 

 

Date last reviewed: 
Tuesday, Feb 01, 2022