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Five things to know about the COVID-19 vaccine for kids aged five to 11

Last Updated Nov 19, 2021 at 4:06 pm MDT

Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at the Strathcona Paper Centre in Napanee, Ont., on March 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Lars Hagberg

OTTAWA — With the approval of Canada’s first COVID-19 vaccine for kids, parents’ minds are no doubt flooded with questions about the best choice for their little ones.

Health Canada found the vaccine is safe for kids, and more than 90 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19 in children.

Health and government officials have started to answer some of the most pressing questions, now that they are preparing to roll out shots for kids.

Who can get the vaccine?

Children over the age of 12 already qualify for a full-sized dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. With the new approval Friday, any child aged five to 11 years old is eligible for a series of pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines.

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends that children in that age range may be given a child-sized dose, as long as they have no contraindications.

That means as long as they don’t have any other conditions that could make vaccination risky, they should be able to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

When can they get it?

That will depend largely on where you live. Every province and territory has developed their own vaccine strategy for children.

The good news is the provinces should have the vaccines in hand very soon. The first shipment will be in Canada by Sunday, according to federal Procurement Minister Filomena Tassi. By the end of next week there will be enough vaccines in the country — about 2.9 million — for every Canadian child to get their first dose.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos says provinces should be able to start offering the vaccine by the end of next week.

Should my kid get the vaccine?

Parents are encouraged to speak with their family doctor or their child’s pediatrician about the right choice for their child.

While NACI’s advice only says that children “may” be vaccinated and not that they “should,” NACI executive secretary Dr. Matthew Tunis says that language will likely be strengthened with time.

Children are at lower risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, but public health and Health Canada officials said there are still potential risks associated with not getting vaccinated.

Some kids who are infected with COVID-19 can become quite sick and develop serious side-effects such as multisystem inflammatory disease, long-COVID and heart inflammation.

Health Canada’s analysis has also found the vaccine is safe and the side-effects are less common than those found in older age groups, aside from redness and swelling at the injection site.

Will there be other options?

For now, only Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine has been approved for use in kids under the age of 12. However Moderna has submitted its pediatric vaccine for kids aged six to 11 for approval, and Health Canada is reviewing its safety and efficacy data.

What about my younger kid?

There is no COVID-19 vaccine approved for children under the age of five, but there could be soon. Pfizer-BioNTech has already begun trials for kids aged two to five and kids six months old to two years old.

Topline results from the trials for those age groups are expected as early as the end of this year.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 19, 2021.

Laura Osman, The Canadian Press