Health Canada on Friday approved a COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11, and provinces have already started booking appointments.
“This is great news for adults and children,” Dr. Supriya Sharma, Senior Medical Advisor, Health Canada, said at a press conference on November 19.
“It provides another tool to protect Canadians, and to the relief of many parents, will help bring back a degree of normality to children’s lives, allowing them to do more of the things they’ve done during the past 20 months.” will be allowed to do so more safely.”
Here are some questions you may have about parental shots.
Health Canada says children and young people are less likely to become seriously ill from COVID-19. But they can still get sick or have the virus without symptoms, spread it to others, and experience long-term effects if infected. Children are also susceptible to a rare but serious complication called multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS-C) in children, where inflammation can occur in various organs such as the kidneys, heart, and lungs.
Health Canada says that children with underlying medical conditions may be at higher risk of complications from COVID-19. Although it is rare, some children have died after contracting COVID-19 during the pandemic in Canada.
“We have conducted studies across Canada that have shown that a few hundred children have been hospitalized for either acute COVID-19 or children’s multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a dysregulated immune response that is highly creates inflammatory conditions,” Dr. Jesse Papenberg, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at McGill University Health Center’s Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Studies have shown that half of the children who end up in hospital due to COVID-19 had no underlying condition that predisposed them to serious infections, he said.
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, officially known as Comirnati, is now approved by Health Canada for all people age five and older.
However, the formulas for the pediatric dose given to children between the ages of five and 11 and the adult dosage for those 12 years of age and older differ slightly.
Most importantly, the adult dosage contains 30 micrograms of mRNA, while the pediatric dosage is just 10 micrograms.
There is some very slight variation between the non-medicinal ingredients in each for better stability in smaller doses. According to Health Canada, this change is not considered medically significant.
After the adult dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine was approved, the company began clinical trials on children under the age of 12. The first participants received their first dose in March 2021.
In the first phase of the study, researchers tested different dosage strengths, eventually establishing 10 micrograms as the best pediatric dosage. Then, 2,268 children were randomly assigned to receive either the vaccine or a placebo. The children received two doses spaced 21 days apart.
The study results were published in peer-reviewed New England Journal of Medicine,
The study found that a week after the second dose, the vaccine was 90.7 percent effective in protecting trial participants from COVID-19. No serious side effects were reported in children aged five to 11 years.
Health Canada independently evaluates study information provided by companies as part of the vaccine approval process and on November 19 approved the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children between the ages of five and 11.
The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends that children be given two shots at an interval of eight weeks.
So far, the provinces are following that recommendation.
The NACI recommends that children not receive another vaccine, eg a flu shot, for at least 14 days after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Similarly, they recommend that children wait at least 14 days to receive their COVID-19 vaccine after receiving another shot.
This is mostly so that medical professionals can identify whether an adverse reaction is due to the COVID-19 vaccine or something else, as introduced across Canada, the NACI said.
Common side effects in children include redness, pain or swelling at the injection site, and general symptoms such as fatigue, headache or muscle aches. According to Health Canada,
These side effects go away after a few days, according to material compiled by University of Waterloo School of Pharmacy,
No serious side effects attributed to the vaccine were seen in trials in young children. Side effects such as anaphylaxis and myocarditis are rare, but have been seen in older age groups, according to the University of Waterloo.
The risk of myocarditis or pericarditis, which is an inflammation of the heart or tissue surrounding the heart, is much higher if a person catches COVID-19 than if they were vaccinated, the university said.
Questioning side effects is “completely valid for any type of medical intervention,” Papenberg said.
However, COVID-19 vaccines are “the most investigated medical intervention in modern medicine”, he said. He said that so far about 3 million doses have been given to children in the age group of five to 11 years in the US.