Everything you need to know about COVID-19 vaccines for children and youth, including vaccine safety and efficacy, when they can get vaccinated, and what to expect at the appointment.
Last updated: June 16, 2022
All children and youth aged five to 17 are eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends an interval of eight weeks between first and second dose to provide the strongest possible protection against COVID-19.
Why children and youth should get vaccinated
Vaccines are safe
Vaccines are safe, effective, and are the best way to stay protected from COVID-19 and its variants. They are an important tool to help prevent serious illness and support the overall health and wellbeing of our children and communities.
Health Canada has approved the Pfizer vaccine for use in children aged five and over and the Moderna vaccine for use in children aged six and over and determined that these vaccines:
- are safe, effective, and manufactured with rigorous quality control and assurance
- show a strong immune response and prepare the immune system to fight against COVID-19
- significantly decrease the risk of severe outcomes from COVID-19 infection
- significantly decrease the risk of longer-term illness from multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a rare but serious condition that can occur in the weeks following COVID-19 infection
Children and youth aged five and over are recommended to receive the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine.
With informed consent, which should include awareness of possible elevated risk of myocarditis/pericarditis, children and youth aged six and over may receive the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.
Learn more about Health Canada’s vaccine approval process and Ontario’s ethical framework for COVID-19covid 19 vaccine distribution.
It will reduce the risk of getting sick again if they already had COVID-19
If your child had COVID-19, they should still get the vaccine. It will reduce the risk of getting sick again and will provide increased protection against COVID-19 and its variants.
Ontario, in alignment with the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), has recommended that if your child has tested positive on a PCR or rapid antigen test, or was symptomatic and a household contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, they should wait eight weeks after symptom onset or positive test (if they had no symptoms) before receiving a dose of COVID-19 vaccine.
Children with moderate to severe immunocompromising conditions should wait four to eight weeks after symptom onset or positive test (if they had no symptoms).
Children with a previous history of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) should receive the vaccine dose when they have recovered or more than 90 days since the onset of MIS-C, whichever is longer.
With informed consent, your child may receive their COVID-19 vaccine once their symptoms are gone and they have completed their isolation.
It will help protect others
Like adults, children and youth may transmit the virus to others if they are infected, even if they don’t feel sick or have milder symptoms.
By vaccinating children and youth, it will reduce their risk of contracting COVID-19, but also ensure that those around them – including family, friends, teachers, and individuals they come into contact with, especially those who may be at greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19 – have increased protection.
Evidence has shown that higher vaccination rates across Ontario result in:
- reduced infections
- symptomatic disease
- ICU admissions
More people protected means healthier communities.
It will not interfere with getting other vaccines
Children and youth who are not up to date on other vaccines can still receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
If your child is behind on immunizations, we encourage you to contact their health care provider to get up to date.
Children between five and 11 years of age may be recommended to wait 14 days before or after the administration of another vaccine before getting their COVID-19 vaccine. Speak with your health care provider if you have questions.
Learn more about vaccines for children at school.
When to get vaccinated
First and second doses
To provide the strongest possible protection, the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommends waiting eight weeks between the first and second dose. This is based on evidence that suggest longer intervals between doses results in a stronger immune response and higher vaccine effectiveness that is expected to last longer. This interval may also be associated with a lower risk of myocarditis and/or pericarditis. Children must be at least five years old on the day of their vaccine.
Booster dose for youth (ages 12 to 17)
If your child is aged 12 to 17, you can schedule their first booster dose (third dose) six months (168 days) after completion of their primary series (dose one and two). They must be at least 12 years old on the day of their vaccine.
Three-dose primary series for children and youth who are immunocompromised
Some children and youth who are immunocompromised can get a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine eight weeks (56 days) after their second dose as part of an extended primary series. This includes eligible children aged five to 11 years old.
In addition, youth aged 12 to 17 years old can get a first booster (fourth dose) six months (168 days) after completion of the three-dose primary series.
Eligible children and youth will need to provide their prescription, prescription vial, or a referral from a health care professional at the time of their appointment. Speak to your child’s health care provider for more information.
Booking an appointment
Children and youth can get their vaccine:
- at participating pharmacies
- through the provincial booking portal
- by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY for people who are deaf, hearing-impaired, or speech-impaired: 1-866-797-0007)
- by GO-VAXX bus
- directly through public health units that use their own booking systems
- through Indigenous-led vaccination clinics
- at select primary care providers
- at hospital clinics (visit your local hospital or public health unit for booking details, if available in your region)
- through mobile or pop-up clinics, (visit your local public health unit website for details, if available in your region)
For all vaccine doses, when eligibility is defined by age, individuals must be that age or older on the day of their vaccine.
If a child or youth does not have an Ontario health card
Children and youth do not require a valid Ontario health card to book their vaccination appointment through the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre (PVCC), but they must have proper identification at the time of their appointment.
Identification that can be used include:
- birth certificate
- piece of registered mail
- student card
- library card
- club or organization ID cards
- government issued identification from other jurisdictions including foreign passports, or other provincial or territorial health cards
You may bring more than one piece of identification to support your child’s identity. The document or combination of documents must include their name and birth date.
Expired pieces of identification will also be accepted for this purpose.
If your child doesn’t have a piece of identification or combination of pieces of identification or is unable to provide verification of primary place of residence, you may work with your public health unit and/or community organization, school or medical provider to verify their identity. This may be provided in the form of a letter from a community organization, school or medical provider or other identity verification form.
If your public health unit is using its own booking system, you should contact them directly. You will be asked for another form of identification or combination of pieces of identification. Once the public health unit has confirmed your identity, they will help book your appointment.
Possible side effects
Like any medication, vaccines can cause mild side effects and reactions that can last a few hours or a couple of days after vaccination.
Common side effects may include:
- colour changes (for example, red or purple), soreness or swelling on the arm where you got the needle
- muscle and joint pain
- mild fever
When to call your doctor
Vaccine reactions are rare. However, they may occur up to three days after getting vaccinated.
If you or your child experience a high fever (over 40°C or 104°F), or side effects that are worrying you or do not seem to be going away after a few days, call your doctor or health care practitioner or seek medical attention.
Go to the nearest emergency department or call 911 if you or your child develops any of the following reactions within three days of receiving the vaccine:
- swelling of the face, throat or mouth
- trouble breathing
- chest pain, shortness of breath or heart palpitations
- serious drowsiness
- high fever (over 40°C)
- convulsions or seizures
- other serious symptoms, such as numbness or “pins and needles”
It typically takes a couple of weeks for the body to build immunity after completing a vaccination series.
This means that it is possible to become infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 just before or just after vaccination because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection.
Keep following public health measures
Even once your child is fully vaccinated, they should continue to follow measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 and stay safe. This includes:
- staying home if they have symptoms, even if they are mild
- wearing a mask where it is required
- washing hands thoroughly and regularly
- covering a cough
- opening windows for air flow, if possible, when gathering inside
Additional questions on COVID-19 vaccines for children and youth
It’s okay to still have questions about the vaccine. If you do, you can:
- talk to your child’s family doctor, paediatrician or nurse practitioner
- contact the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre to speak to an agent or health specialist at 1-833-943-3900 (TTY for people who are deaf, hearing-impaired or speech-impaired: 1-866-797-0007), available in more than 300 languages, seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
- book a confidential appointment with a registered nurse through the SickKids COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service at www.sickkids.ca/vaccineconsult or 1-888-304-6558 (appointments are available in multiple languages)
- learn more from SickKids about COVID-19 vaccines for children and youth
- download our fact sheet on COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Youth
Here are some additional resources about COVID-19 vaccines for children and youth:
- Kids Health First with information from the Children’s COVID-19covid 19 Vaccine Table
- Max the Vax by the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies
- SickKids COVID-19 Learning Hub
- Children’s Health Coalition – Vaccine Confidence campaign
- CARD: Improving the Vaccination Experience
- CARD Game for Kids
- Science Up First – Credible Sources
- Science Up First – Debunking Resources
- CHEO’s vaccination coping plan for children
- Poster: COVID-19 Vaccines for Children and Youth
- Poster: COVID-19 vaccine for youth 12-17
- COVID-19 screening for school and child care