You asked… COVID-19 vaccine for youth

You asked… COVID-19 vaccine for youth
Posted on 06/04/2021
You asked… COVID-19 vaccine for youth

Ottawa Public Health and CHEO have compiled the following frequently asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for youth aged 12 and older. 

For more information, please visit the OPH vaccine website.

You can book your appointment using the Ontario website: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/book-vaccine/

1. What ages of children are currently eligible for the vaccines?

Children 12 years old and up are eligible to be vaccinated. You must be 12 years old or older on the day of your appointment to book online. If you are currently 11 years old but are turning 12 years old soon and would be that age on the day of your vaccination, then call 1-833-943-3900 to book an appointment. 

2. Which vaccines are adolescents eligible for? How do these differ? Is one  better than another? 

The first and currently only COVID-19 vaccine approved for use in adolescents is the  Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

Over 3 million doses have already been given to kids aged 12-17 years with no serious  side effects identified. 

3. Is the dosage and schedule the same as adults? 

The dose and schedule are the same for kids as for adults – 2 doses at least 3 weeks  apart; however, the interval between doses as determined by the province based on  supplies will apply, which will likely mean an extended interval of 2-4 months for kids  aged 12-17 years 

4. What about kids under age 12? When will we have vaccines for them? 

Currently, Pfizer and Moderna have begun clinical trials involving younger children (6 mo - 11 yrs). 

The first step is doing the trials and determining how well the vaccine works, what the  safest and most effective dosage and schedule are for optimal protection, and what the  side effects are for this age group. This can take several months. Then there is review  of the data by Health Canada for approval, and further review and recommendations  from our National Advisory Committee on Immunization. 

5. What does the efficacy and safety look like in adolescents? Does it differ  from adults? 

According to Canada’s National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), clinical  trials have shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has an excellent ability to protect  adolescents 12 to 15 years of age against symptomatic COVID-19 infection. After 2  doses, it is estimated that the vaccine will protect somewhere between 75% to 100% of  those vaccinated in this age group, likely more towards the higher end of this range.  Vaccination will be important to protect adolescents against symptomatic COVID-19  disease and to reduce community transmission of SARS-CoV-2. 

6. How do we manage side effects from vaccines in children?  

In clinical trials, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was well tolerated in  adolescents 12 to 15 years of age. Similar to adults, mild side effects predominantly  included headache, fatigue, muscle ache, and joint pain, and occurred more often after  the second dose. Compared to individuals 18 to 55 years of age, adolescents 12 to 15  years of age demonstrated increased frequency of headache, chills, and fever. These  side effects can be managed at home.  

If someone experiences an adverse event following immunization (AEFI), other than  mild expected side effects, they should report it to a healthcare professional (e.g., family  doctor). An AEFI is an unwanted or unexpected health effect that happens after  someone receives a vaccine, which may or may not be caused by the vaccine.  

7- Are there any concerns with blood clots with the vaccines that are available for  the youth? 

There have been no confirmed cases of Vaccine-induced Thrombotic  Thrombocytopenia (VITT), or blood clots, with the mRNA COVID-19 vaccines (e.g.,  Pfizer-BioNtech or Moderna). Monitoring for adverse events following Pfizer-BioNTech  vaccine will continue.  

8- Can any of the vaccines cause any changes to DNA? 

No. The mRNA vaccines are not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup  (DNA). The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which  is where our DNA is found. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our  DNA in any way. Instead, mRNA COVID-19 vaccines use mRNA to give instructions to our cells to make a piece of protein, called a “spike protein.” The spike protein is found  on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19; it allows the virus to attach to and  enter certain of our body’s cells. Our cells then manufacture the spike protein and  display it on their cell surface. After the spike protein is made, our cells break down the  mRNA thereby stopping further manufacture of the spike protein. Our immune system  recognizes that the protein doesn’t belong on the cell’s surface, which triggers an  immune response. Our bodies start making antibodies to target the spike protein, and  our immune system will remember how to fight the virus that causes COVID-19 if we  are ever infected with it. 

9- What about children who are immunocompromised? Is it safe for them to get  the vaccine? 

NACI recommends that you speak to your health care provider about vaccination. A  complete series of COVID-19 vaccine may be offered if after a risk assessment with  your health care provider:

  • It is decided that the benefits outweigh the potential risks: and 
  • A discussion leading to informed consent has taken place. This should include  talking about the potentially decreased effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccine in  persons with immunocompromised or autoimmune conditions. 

10. What if I or my child is due for another vaccine such as Hep B or HPV? How  many days do you have to wait before getting another vaccine? 

Note, it is recommended that the Pfizer-Biotech COVID-19 vaccine be given at a  separate time from other types of vaccines. Currently, NACI has provided the following recommendations for those in need of other non-COVID publicly funded vaccinations: 

  1. Wait 14 days after a non-COVID-19 vaccine before receiving a COVID-19  vaccine. 
  2. Wait 28 days after each dose of COVID-19 vaccines before receiving any other  vaccine. 
  3. Avoid administering COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines at the same time  when possible. However, if a COVID-19 vaccine is inadvertently administered at  the same time as another vaccine, neither dose should be repeated. 

Note that these recommendations to wait would not apply if the other vaccine is critical  (for example, rabies vaccine after an animal bite; tetanus vaccine for a dirty wound) or if the risk of exposure to COVID-19 is extremely high. 

11- NACI recently recommended a 4-month delay between the first and second dose. What are your thoughts on this? Would this be different for children? 

NACI recommended an extended interval of up to four months to allow as many eligible  populations as possible to be offered vaccination with one dose before proceeding to  offering second doses. Within the context of limited vaccine supply, and in the absence  of specific recommendations on dosing intervals for this age group, NACI’s  recommendations on extended dose intervals would apply to children ages 12 to 15 as  well. 

12. How long does immunity last? Do you anticipate getting booster shots every year? What about the variants - will those require booster shots?  

At this time, we are still learning how long the COVID-19 vaccines will protect people. We are also still learning how effective they are against new variants of the virus that  causes COVID-19. It is too early to tell if we will need booster shots every year. 

13. If someone has already had COVID-19, should they still get the vaccine?

Yes. Because of the severe health risks associated with COVID-19, and the possibility that people can be infected more than once, it is recommended that people still get the COVID-19 vaccine even if they have been sick with the virus before. The vaccine has been shown to help further improve immunity in those persons who already had COVID 19. 

14. Can people still get COVID-19 after the vaccine? 

Although the COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in Canada are effective, protection  from COVID-19 takes time to develop. You should not assume that you will be protected  right away. Also, no vaccine is 100% effective - there will be a small percentage of  people who will remain unprotected despite being vaccinated. In addition, protection  after only one dose of a 2-dose COVID-19 vaccine is less than after two doses. Finally, vaccines may not protect against all variants of the virus that causes COVID-19. 

15. Can we see our friends and family after we get vaccinated?  There are currently no changes to the recommendations that are in place. 

COVID-19 vaccination along with public health measures will offer the best protection  from the spread of COVID-19. Those who are vaccinated, and those who are not, must  all continue to practice public health measures: 

  • Physical distancing 
  • Wearing a mask 
  • Hand washing 
  • Isolating when sick 

The vaccines are effective at preventing symptomatic illness and death. However,  experts need to learn more about the protection that COVID-19 vaccines offer before  changing public health recommendations. 

When you’ve had one dose of a two-dose vaccine series, its effectiveness improves  over a number of weeks. You cannot assume that if you have been vaccinated, you will  be protected right away. It is important to understand that any time you have close  contact with people from outside of your household, you are putting yourself and others  at risk. 

When more time has passed, and more of the community is vaccinated, experts will  likely recommend lifting some of the restrictions. Many modelling studies have shown  that we need to continue with full public health measures until very high levels of  vaccination are achieved. 

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