COVID-19 vaccine approved for kids ages 5-11: Here’s what you need to know

Story by CBC Kids News • 2021-11-19 13:01

Health Canada says the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is safe and effective


Many of the people getting COVID-19 these days are kids under 11.

Part of the problem is that they’re unvaccinated.

But there's good news on the horizon.

Today, Health Canada officially approved the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages five to 11.

“Most of the outbreaks now that are reported to us are from the school and daycare setting, and especially in primary school,” said Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer.

“Kids have endured quite a bit during this very long pandemic,” she added. “We need to do everything that we can to help them stay in school and regain that normality.”

Have questions? Click play to hear a doctor answer COVID-19 vaccine questions from Canadian kids:

It’s safe and effective

Vaccines are used because they help prevent the spread of deadly viruses like SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19.

The company said it’s about 90 per cent effective, including against the delta variant.

Pfizer said the vaccine works, but may not protect everyone.

Even if you’ve been vaccinated, it’s still possible to get COVID-19, although experts say the symptoms tend to be more mild.

You can also still spread the virus to someone else.

Before being approved, the vaccine was tested on 2,268 kids — they were part of a process called a clinical trial.

The findings were submitted to Health Canada for review on Oct. 18.

A kid gets a vaccine

Two million kids under 12 have already gotten a COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. (Image credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Health Canada determined that the Pfizer vaccine is also safe to use.

Canada has a system in place to gather data and flag potential side-effects that didn’t come up in the clinical trial. This system is called Immunization Monitoring Program ACTive (IMPACT).

The vaccine was approved in the U.S. earlier this month and two million kids have already received a dose.

Number of doses?

Kids will receive two doses.

Canada's National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends kids wait at least eight weeks between doses because it’s been shown that their body can fight off the virus better and there is a lower risk of myocarditis (a rare infection that cause inflammation of the heart) and pericarditis (a rare infection that causes swelling and irritation of the tissue around the heart).

They will receive a smaller amount of the vaccine — one third the amount — than people aged 12 and up.

Health Canada says it’s because healthy children have stronger immune systems than youth and adults.

How will it make you feel?

Some people experience side-effects from the COVID-19 vaccine.

Those are generally similar to the ones people can experience when they get the flu.

For example, you may feel swelling, a headache, muscle pain or chills.

In a few very rare cases, people experienced allergic reactions.

A needle and a vial with Pfizer in the background

Right now, Pfizer makes the only vaccine approved for kids over the age of five. Moderna is also seeking approval for their vaccine in that age group. (Image credit: Cindy Ord/Getty Images/Pfizer/BioNTech)

Anyone with severe allergies should talk to their doctor before getting a vaccine.

There is also a very small chance kids could experience myocarditis or pericarditis. Anyone who feels chest pain or has difficulty breathing should immediately go to hospital.

When can kids get it?

The vaccines will be arriving in Canada by Sunday, according to a government official.

Each province and territory will determine when kids can get the vaccine now that it’s approved.

In Alberta, for example, officials have said they would offer appointments “as soon as possible.”

Officials in British Columbia have said they expect kids to start getting the vaccine before the Christmas holidays.

Doctors say getting the vaccine is the best way to keep kids healthy and in school.

“It is brilliant that we have this vaccine for kids,” said Dr. Allison McGeer, infectious diseases specialist and microbiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.

Still worried?

If you have questions or concerns about the COVID-19 vaccine, check out this video from CBC Kids News contributor Isabelle MacNeil in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

She looked into some common myths about COVID-19 vaccines:

Have more questions? We'll do our best to look into it for you. Ask for permission from your parent or guardian and email us at

With files from CBC News

CLARIFICATIONS: On Dec. 9, CBC Kids News changed a few parts of this article to make it clear that:

Even though the vaccine is effective, it’s still possible to get and spread COVID-19 if you’ve been vaccinated. Pfizer said the vaccine is safe but monitoring continues. We also added pericarditis as a rare side effect of getting the COVID-19 vaccine.

CORRECTION: On Dec. 9, CBC Kids News made the following corrections:

Before being approved, the vaccine was tested on 2,268 kids, not 4,500 kids.
The reason kids get a smaller dose of the vaccine is because healthy children have a stronger immune system than youth and adults, according to Health Canada, not because their bodies are smaller. NACI recommends eight weeks between doses, not three weeks, because there is a lower risk of myocarditis and pericarditis.

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