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Health Canada has now approved the COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine for use in five to 11 year olds. More than 112,000 doses of the vaccine are expected in Saskatchewan, enough to immunize every child in that age group.
Clinics will also be delivered in more than 100 schools with a focus on ensuring parent or guardian attendance to support the children. Information on in-school clinics will be shared with parents and students directly. There will be specialized clinics for children with additional needs (eg autism, in hospital).
Vaccinations will also be available for five to 11 year olds from Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), Northern Inter-Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) and participating pharmacies.
Pfizer will be a two dose schedule, but pediatric vaccines (5-11 years old) are a different formulation and/or dosage, depending upon manufacturer than the current formulations for 12 years and older.
The Pfizer pediatric vaccine is a different formulation from the current vaccine for +12 years. A new stabilizer (Tris/Sucrose) allows the thawed vaccine to be stored for 10 weeks, whereas the +12 formulation is stable for four weeks in the fridge. The dosage will be 0.2 ml given in the upper arm muscle. The +12 dosage is 0.3ml. All vaccine related supplies, including needles will be provided by the federal government.
Clinical trials showed children five to 11 years old had very good immune responses to the Pfizer vaccine with 90.7 per cent efficacy when they received two doses at least 21 days apart. The optimal interval between doses is eight weeks; however, families may choose to receive the second dose as early as 21 days after the initial dose.
At this time, only the Pfizer vaccine is approved by Health Canada for five to 11 year olds. Saskatchewan is receiving 112,000 doses, enough to vaccinate all five to 11 year olds who want it with their first dose.
What if I do not want my child vaccinated with the Pfizer vaccine? Is there another option?
Currently the Pfizer vaccine is the only vaccine that has received Health Canada approval for this age group.
My child is afraid of needles. Is there anything I can do to help?
Parents or guardians are encouraged to attend the clinic or appointment to support their child during vaccination. Children can bring comfort items with them such as stuffed toys. The SHA is focusing on family-friendly clinics and don’t be surprised if you see a therapy dog or Santa at the clinic.
There are lots of good online resources for helping you make your child comfortable with suggestions for distractions or deep breaths and how to talk to your child about immunization.
Is it mandatory to get my child vaccinated? Can schools require vaccination?
Vaccinations are not mandatory in Saskatchewan.
My child is four but is in the same grade as the five year olds. Can they get immunized too?
Eligibility is based on age, not grade. Children must be at least five years of age on the date of vaccination.
Does my child still have to wear a mask at school if he or she is fully vaccinated?
Masking in schools is currently a requirement, regardless of vaccination status. The risk of transmission is greatly reduced with vaccination but it is still possible.
If vaccine clinics are held in schools, will my child be forced to get it?
No. Vaccinations are not mandatory. Parental consent is required for any vaccination for a five to 11 year old. Consent is required from only one parent .
If kids are less likely to get really sick, why does my child need to be vaccinated?
Children are at a lower risk of serious illness compared to adults, but they are still at risk from infection with COVID-19 and may face serious illness, complications and even death, particularly due to the highly contagious variants, such as Delta.
Not only will the COVID-19 disease make a child very ill, it can also lead to other conditions such as myocarditis/pericarditis – swelling of the heart and the lining surrounding it – or Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C), where different body parts such as the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain, skin, eyes, or gastrointestinal organs become inflamed, which is most common in children aged 5 to 11.
Early studies also show that children can get long COVID, indicating that one to four per cent of children with a COVID-19 infection had lasting symptoms. Symptoms include tiredness, headache, sore throat, and loss of smell. Children can get long COVID even after a mild illness.
Unvaccinated children are also a growing source of transmission. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, children under 12 years now account for the highest number of new COVID-19 infections.
Immunizing your child not only protects them, but the rest of your household, your loved ones and your community by decreasing the risk of transmission, which in turn decreases the number of people who will become ill with COVID-19.
I’m worried that the vaccines were developed really fast. Are they safe for children?
Clinical trials indicate that the Pfizer vaccine had no safety concerns noted among children five to 11 years of age. Children five to 11 years old had very good immune responses when they receive two doses as recommended (at least 21 days apart) with 90.7% vaccine efficacy at least seven days after the second dose.
Will the vaccine change my child’s DNA or cause infertility?
No. The vaccines are safe and very effective at preventing serious illness and death. The vaccine will not change DNA or cause infertility.
Will my child experience side effects from the COVID-19 vaccine?
It is possible your child may experience some side effects from receiving any vaccine. The side effects are usually mild and are a sign that the vaccine is working in the body to build protection against COVID-19.
Common side effects are a sore or red arm, tiredness, chills, fever, headache, nausea, and muscle/joint pain. Side effects usually go away after a few days.
What are the serious side effects of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in children?
No new or unexpected serious side effects were seen in the Pfizer vaccine trials for children. Serious side effects, like anaphylaxis (a severe allergy), after immunization are rare – occurring in 0.025% percent of all Pfizer COVID-19 immunizations to people over the age of 12.
Inflammation of the heart (myocarditis) and of the sac around the heart (pericarditis) can happen rarely after COVID-19 vaccines. These conditions are more likely for young males aged 12-29 after their second dose, are usually mild and are treatable with rest and anti-inflammatory medicines. There were no instances of myo/pericarditis identified in clinical trials for 5-11 year old children.
These conditions happen far more often after a COVID-19 infection than after immunization.
What are the long-term side effects of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines in children?
There is no evidence of any long-term side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine in children. mRNA vaccines, such as the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, have been studied in humans since 2013 with no known long-term effects. Vaccines do not impact fertility or alter your genes (DNA).
How can I treat my child’s COVID‑19 vaccine side effects?
If your child feels pain or discomfort where they got their COVID‑19 vaccine, try placing a cool, wet washcloth on the area. Encourage them to exercise or move the area.
Pain or fever-reducing medications may be given to your child if they are experiencing side effects. Make sure you always give your child the appropriate dose of any medication. Offer plenty of fluids to encourage hydration.
It is not recommended that you give your child any pain-relieving medications before they get their COVID‑19 vaccine to prevent side effects.
My child has additional medical issues or allergies. Is it safe for them to be vaccinated?
Yes, the COVID‑19 vaccine is safe and recommended for children with chronic or underlying medical conditions.
Children with certain medical conditions – including diabetes, sickle cell disease, cancer, cystic fibrosis, kidney disease and more – may be more likely to get severely ill if they get COVID‑19. Therefore, it's even more important to make sure these children get vaccinated.
There will be specialized clinics for children with additional needs (eg autism, in hospital). Details on these clinics are being finalized to best serve the needs of these children and their families and will be announced in the coming days.
How far apart will the vaccines be for children 5-11? Will children need boosters?
Children five to 11 years old had very good immune responses when they receive two doses as recommended (at least 21 days apart) with 90.7% vaccine efficacy.
We don’t know yet if children will need a COVID-19 booster. Experts will continue to monitor how long the vaccine is effective and how well it is working against COVID‑19 variants.
Can my child get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the flu shot?
Yes. In most cases the seasonal influenza vaccine will be available at the same clinics offering the pediatric vaccination.
Will second doses be provided in targeted school-based clinics as well?
Yes. As details are confirmed with school divisions, second dose clinics will be communicated through the individual schools.
My child already had COVID; should they still get vaccinated?
Yes. Your child should get immunized even if they already had COVID‑19. Studies have shown that the vaccines can trigger a COVID‑19 immune response stronger than the one naturally present in people who had COVID‑19, as well as providing longer lasting protection.
How will I get proof of vaccination for my child?
Parents/guardians are able to access their child's immunization record through MySaskHealthRecord. Parents/guardians must have an account themselves, and the child's information can be linked. Parents/guardians with MySaskHealthRecord who have not already made a request for access to a child's immunization record are encouraged to do so. Those 14 and older must have their own account.
Will children five to 11 be required to show proof of vaccination now or a negative test to access certain venues?
There will not be a provincial requirement for children aged five to 11 to show proof of vaccination or a negative test; however some events or venues may decide to make that a requirement for entry.
I’m scared of needles. Will getting the vaccine hurt?
The needle will pinch but only for a few seconds. There are things that you can do to make it hurt less like taking some deep breaths, wiggling your fingers and counting to ten.
Do I have to get vaccinated?
Getting vaccinated keeps you from getting really sick. It will be up to your mom or dad or guardian whether you get vaccinated.
Do I need two shots, like adults?
Two shots (doses) are the best way to keep you the most safe from getting very sick.
Is the vaccine the same one as adults get?
The vaccine is a little bit different because it is made especially for younger children. There is also a smaller amount of the vaccine needed.
Do kids really need the COVID-19 vaccine?
Many kids have had COVID and some have been fine but some have been very, very sick. A vaccine will help to make sure that you don’t get very sick. It will be up to your parents or guardian to decide if you are to be vaccinated.
What if I want to get the vaccine, but my parents/caregivers don’t want me to? Or I do not want the vaccine, but my parent/caregivers want me to get vaccinated?
Talk to your parents or guardian about your feelings about whether you want the vaccine or do not want the vaccine. It will be up to parents or guardians whether a child is vaccinated. Parental/guardian consent must be provided in order for anyone aged five to 11 to be vaccinated.
Is the COVID-19 vaccine safe?
The vaccine is safe. It has been tested on many, many children and there were no serious side effects and it kept those children from getting very sick. The vaccine had to be approved by Health Canada in order to be used.
What are the side effects of getting the vaccine?
You will probably have a sore arm for a little while. Some people do not feel anything after getting vaccinated. You may feel tired and achy or chilled but that goes away in a day or two.
Do I still have to wear a mask at school or in other places if I’m fully vaccinated?
Yes. Right now everyone has to wear a mask at school and other places because there is still some people who may be sick and can pass it on to other people.