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COVID-19 vaccines for children and youth

Date last reviewed: 
Tuesday, Aug 22, 2023


COVID-19 vaccines are approved by Health Canada for children 6 months of age and older. Getting all the recommended doses helps protect children against severe illness from COVID-19.

Get vaccinated

To get your child vaccinated against COVID-19, you must register them with the provincial Get Vaccinated system. You will receive a booking invitation when it's time to book your child’s dose.

Benefits of COVID-19 vaccination in children and youth

There are many benefits of getting your child vaccinated against COVID-19:
  • Vaccination protects against severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19. There's no way to tell in advance how a child will be affected by COVID-19.
  • Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is a safer, more reliable way to build protection than getting sick with COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 vaccines can offer added protection to children who have had COVID-19.
  • Vaccination can make it less likely that children will miss out on activities like daycare, school, sports, and social events.
  • Vaccinating children can help protect others, including family members and those most at risk. 

Vaccines for children and youth 

Children and youth will be offered a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine. The mRNA vaccines provide the best protection against COVID-19. Children 12 and older who would prefer a non-mRNA COVID-19 vaccine can request the Novavax vaccine. The Novavax vaccine is a protein subunit vaccine. It will be available later this summer.
Initial vaccine series 
Most children and youth need 2 doses to complete their initial vaccine series. The second dose of vaccine should be given 8 weeks after the first dose. 
Children and youth who are moderately to severely immunocompromised should receive 3 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine for their initial series. These children and youth may not develop a strong enough immune response with only two vaccine doses and need a third dose to be better protected against COVID-19.
Additional doses


An additional dose of COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for everyone 5 years and older at least 6 months after their initial series. Scientists are still determining if children 6 months to 4 years of age will need an additional dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
People who have had a positive COVID-19 test can wait 6 months for their additional dose. The likelihood of reinfection is low in this time after infection, and the immune response is higher when there is more time between infection and vaccination.
Updated COVID-19 vaccines that help protect against the latest variants will be available in the fall. More information on BC’s fall COVID-19 vaccination campaign will be available in the coming months.

BCCDC handouts

Vaccination after COVID-19 

People who have had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated because vaccines provide more reliable protection against COVID-19. 
If a child or youth has recently had a positive COVID-19 test result, they can wait 6 months for an additional dose. The likelihood of reinfection is low in this time after infection, and the immune response is higher when there is more time between infection and vaccination.

COVID-19 vaccine safety and monitoring

COVID-19 vaccination is safe for children and youth. The vaccines were shown to be safe for children and youth in clinical trials. Since approval, millions of children in Canada and around the world have safely received COVID-19 vaccines, and ongoing safety monitoring continues to show that these vaccines are safe for this age group.

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. 


Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine safety:

Side effects 

Some children and youth have side effects after getting their COVID-19 vaccine, while others have no side effects. Even if your child doesn’t experience any side effects, their body is building protection against the virus that causes COVID-19. Side effects of COVID-19 vaccines are most often mild and generally last 1-2 days. Serious side effects are very rare. 

Possible side effects after COVID-19 mRNA vaccines:

Possible side effects may include: 

  • Soreness, redness, swelling, and itchiness where the vaccine was given. For some people, these reactions may show up 8 or more days after getting the vaccine. 
  • Tiredness and headache.
  • Fever and chills.
  • Muscle or joint soreness.
  • Swollen lymph nodes under the armpit.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Babies and young children may be irritable, more sleepy than normal, and have a decreased appetite.

Rare cases of inflammation of the heart (myocarditis and pericarditis) have been reported after getting the COVID-19 mRNA vaccines. 

  • In Canada, this has occurred at a rate of about 1.7 cases per 100,000 doses of Moderna vaccine and 1.1 cases per 100,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for older children and adults. 
  • Cases are seen more often after the second dose and in males 12-29 years of age. The rate of cases in males 18-29 years of age after the second dose is about 5 times higher with the Moderna vaccine compared to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 
  • 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. 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 known risks of COVID-19 illness outweigh the potential risk of having a serious side effect following vaccination, including the possible risk of myocarditis or pericarditis.


Read this article from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Anaphylaxis after vaccines

It is important to stay in the clinic for 15 minutes after getting any vaccine because about 1 in a million people can have a life-threatening allergic reaction called anaphylaxis. This may include hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of the throat, tongue, or lips. If this reaction occurs, your health care provider is prepared to treat it. Emergency treatment includes administration of epinephrine (adrenaline) and transfer by ambulance to the nearest emergency department. If symptoms develop after you leave the clinic, call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number.
If you have concerns about any symptoms your child develops after receiving the vaccine, speak with your health care provider or call 8-1-1 for advice. 

Reporting adverse events

Please report any adverse events following immunization to your health care provider or your local heath unit. Health care providers are trained to report these events to the correct channels to monitor vaccine safety. Public health also reviews the event and will make a recommendation for future vaccination.

What is an adverse event?

An adverse event following immunization (also known as an AEFI) is any untoward medical occurrence after a vaccine has been given that may or may not have been caused by the vaccine.

COVID-19 vaccination aftercare

Read the COVID-19 Vaccine Aftercare Sheet for what to expect after vaccination, tips for side effects, symptoms to look out for, and when to seek medical attention. 
Preview of the COVID-19 vaccination aftercare sheet


What is COVID-19?

  • COVID-19 is an infection of the airways and lungs caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. 
  • Symptoms of COVID-19 can include cough, shortness of breath, fever, chills, tiredness, and loss of smell or taste.
  •  While some people with COVID-19 may have no symptoms or only mild symptoms, others can require hospitalization and may die. 
  • Serious illness is more common in those who are older and those with certain chronic health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease. 
  • For some people, symptoms of COVID-19 can last for weeks or longer. 
  • The long-term effects of COVID-19 on a person’s health are unknown.

Risks of COVID-19 in children and youth

Most children who get COVID-19 have a minor illness, but some: 
  • Require hospitalization for complications, such as difficulty breathing.
  • Get a severe lung infection and heart issues like myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle). 
  • Get a rare but serious complication 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.
  • May feel sick for weeks or months after the initial illness. This is called post-COVID condition or "long COVID.” 
Children with underlying medical conditions are more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19. However, healthy children without underlying medical conditions can also experience severe illness. There is no way to tell in advance how children will be affected by COVID-19. 


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!