The COVID-19 vaccine approved by Health Canada for children aged five to 11 is safe and effective.
Over 3,000 children aged five to 11 received the vaccine in the Pfizer clinical trial. No serious side-effects have been detected in the ongoing study and the children continue to be monitored. Mild side-effects can include arm tenderness, redness or swelling at the injection site and fatigue.
In the clinical trial, the vaccine was shown to be 91 per cent effective against symptomatic infection, with mild side-effects like those seen in adults and with other vaccines recommended for children.
Health Canada has conducted an independent and thorough scientific review of the data submitted by Pfizer for approval. It also continues to closely monitor all safety and effectiveness data from real-world use of COVID-19 vaccines.
Rare side-effects that have been seen in older teens and young adults, such as myocarditis and pericarditis, are even rarer in children aged five to 11.
Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) advises that the Pfizer vaccine is preferred for this age group and that the Moderna vaccine, which is approved for ages six to 11, may be offered as an alternative.
It is important for children and youth to be vaccinated because COVID-19 can result in severe illness, hospitalizations and long-term complications.
Although severe illness due to acute COVID-19 infection is less frequent in children compared to adults, children can still be hospitalized and even require ICU-level care due to COVID-19.
A proportion of children who contract COVID-19 may go on to develop multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C). While treatable and rare, approximately one in three children hospitalized with MIS-C will require ICU care.
A study in the U.S. conducted in 2021 showed that the vaccine was highly effective at preventing the development of this serious condition in vaccinated youth (aged 12 to 18). The study showed that among the youth who were hospitalized with MIS-C, the vast majority were unvaccinated. This data bodes well for the prevention of MIS-C in vaccinated children aged five to 11 for which confirmatory studies are underway.
While long COVID rates are expected to be lower in children compared with adults, the full spectrum of manifestations of long COVID in children is still being determined.
Vaccinating younger children will help protect them and those around them.
Though there are improving trends in the community, the virus causing COVID-19 continues to circulate and can lead to hospitalization in all age groups, especially in people who are not vaccinated. Vaccination helps protect children from developing severe illness and hospitalization from COVID-19 and its complications. Further, children who develop COVID-19 can pass the virus on to other people, including vulnerable adults such as grandparents or immunocompromised individuals.
The benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine for eligible children far outweigh any risks, which are rare and for the most part, treatable.
In clinical trials, vaccine side-effects were mild and similar to those seen with other vaccines recommended for children. The most common side-effect was a sore arm.
Myocarditis or pericarditis are rare and most commonly experienced by older adolescents and young adults. To date, there have been very few reports of myocarditis or pericarditis in children five to 11 years old amongst the millions of children who have received the vaccine.
There is no evidence or scientific reason to think that the COVID-19 vaccine can affect puberty or fertility in youth.
It’s impossible for the COVID-19 vaccine to cause COVID-19. The vaccine does not contain the live virus that causes COVID-19.
Vaccination will be important to ensure children can continue to safely engage in everyday activities, which is vital for their physical and mental health and well-being.
SickKids-led research has shown a serious, sustained negative impact on the mental health of Ontario children, youth and their families due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among more than 2,000 participants, researchers found a strong association between time spent online learning and depression and anxiety in school-age children and youth (six to 18 years old). The more time spent online learning, the more symptoms of depression and anxiety they experienced.
Before the pandemic, approximately 60 per cent of participants engaged in school sports and/or other extracurriculars. During the pandemic, only approximately 30 per cent participated in sports and less than 20 per cent, in extracurriculars. These activities are known to boost physical and mental health.