COVID-19 vaccines for children are now available globally. Here’s everything you need to know about the impact of COVID-19 on children, the availability, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines for children, and some common caregiver queries and concerns.
What Is the Impact of COVID-19 on Children?
Children may be one of the greatest victims of this pandemic, not just in terms of their health and survival but also their nutrition, education, social development, and economic status. The worst affected are children from the poorest neighborhoods and countries, who lack access to decent healthcare and educational facilities.
According to UNICEF, approximately 100 million children are living in multidimensional poverty worldwide without access to essential services and at least 463 million children didn’t have access to remote learning services globally during the COVID era (2019 to 2021).
As of November 2022, more than 16,000 COVID-19 deaths have been reported worldwide among people under 20 years of age, of which 53 percent were among adolescents between 10 and 19 years and 47 percent were among children younger than 10 years.
What COVID-19 Vaccines Are Available for Children, and Are They Safe and Effective?
Here’s a list of COVID-19 vaccines for children available in Canada, according to age group:
Between 6 months and 4 to 5 years old:
Vaccines for children in this age group contain the lowest mRNA levels compared with vaccines for older children and young adults.
Emergency use of a Health Canada–approved Pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (3 micrograms) has been allowed. This vaccine is given in three shots. The first two shots are given 3 to 8 weeks apart, and the third shot is given at least 8 weeks after the second shot. After three shots, this vaccine is considered to produce similar antibody levels to those in vaccinated young adults.
Another vaccine for emergency use is the Pediatric Moderna Spikevax vaccine (25 micrograms). This vaccine is given in two shots that are 4 to 8 weeks apart. This vaccine is estimated to be 51 percent effective in babies aged 6 to 23 months and 37 percent effective in children aged 2 to 5 years.
Between 5 to 6 years and 11 years old:
Vaccines for children in this age group contain lower mRNA levels than those in vaccines for children older than 12 years.
A Pediatric Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (10 micrograms) is available for emergency use in this age group. This vaccine is given in two shots 3 to 8 weeks apart. After both shots, it’s considered 91 percent effective for this age group. This vaccine may also include a booster dose.
Another Health Canada-approved vaccine is the Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine (50 micrograms). This vaccine is given in two shots 4 to 8 weeks apart. It produces a similar immune response to that seen in vaccinated adults.
Between 12 years and 17 years old:
The Pfizer BioNTech original and bivalent vaccines (30 micrograms) have been approved by Health Canada. These vaccines are given in three shots — the first two shots are given 3 to 8 weeks apart, and the third shot (booster) is given at least 2 months after the second shot. This vaccine is considered 100 percent effective in preventing COVID among children aged 12 to 15 years. It’s also 95 percent effective in preventing severe illness among children aged 16 years or older.
Next is the Moderna Spikevax COVID-19 vaccine (100 micrograms), which is given in two shots 4 to 8 weeks apart. It creates an immune response equivalent to that in vaccinated adults. It may also include a booster dose of 50 micrograms.
Another is the Novavax COVID-19 vaccine (5 micrograms), which is given in two shots 3 to 8 weeks apart. This vaccine is considered 80 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 symptoms.
Common Caregiver Concerns About COVID-19 Vaccination in Children
Caregivers may ask you about the benefits of COVID-19 vaccination for their children. These vaccines can protect their children from getting seriously ill and prevent hospitalization, especially among children with underlying medical conditions.
They may want to know about the side effects of these vaccines. While not all children will have side effects, some may experience mild and temporary side effects like pain at the injection site or in the joints and muscles, fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, and headache. Very young children may also experience tiredness, irritability, and sleepiness.
If they’re wondering about the dosage, reassure them that the COVID-19 vaccine dosage is calculated as per the age of the child on vaccination day and not size or weight.
Other general guidelines to minimize vaccine hesitancy:
- Even children who have been infected must receive COVID-19 vaccinations 3 months after they first experienced symptoms or tested positive.
- COVID-19 vaccines can be safely given with other vaccines that the child needs as per their age.
Learn More With MDBriefCase
Understanding the impact of COVID-19 on children and the importance of COVID-19 vaccination is critical to care for children adequately. Join the MDBriefCase community for free to discover more about the availability, safety, and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines for children and receive information about common queries and concerns, as well as regular medical updates.