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COVID-19 Vaccines for Youth

Vaccines for Youth

Vaccines are safe, effective and the best way to stay protected from COVID-19. They are an important tool to help to stop the spread of the virus and allow students and families to safely return to normal activities.

COVID-19 vaccines do not cause a coronavirus infection. They help build up immunity to the virus, so that your body will fight it off more easily. This can reduce the risk of developing COVID-19 or make the symptoms milder if you do get it.

Health Canada has approved the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for youth ages 12 to 17. This means that they have determined that this vaccine:

  • is safe, effective, and manufactured to the highest quality
  • prepares your immune system to fight against COVID-19
  • shows a strong antibody response for this age group

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is expected to be up to 95% effective after two doses. In clinical trials the vaccine showed robust antibody response in youth ages 12 to 17.

Getting Your Vaccine

Beginning Wednesday, August 18, 2021, the province of Ontario has expanded the eligibility for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine to include all youth born in 2009 (turning 12 before the end of the 2021 calendar year). Ontario has closely monitored data from Alberta and British Columbia where the Pfizer vaccine has been offered to youth born in 2009 for several months with no risks identified. This will help to ensure even more students have the opportunity to receive the vaccine and ensure strong protection against COVID-19 and the Delta variant as they return to school.Youth born in 2009 or earlier can book into any vaccine clinic for their first or second dose. By getting the vaccine you could be saving a life. It is strongly recommended that all eligible individuals born in 2009 or earlier receive the full COVID-19 vaccine series as soon as possible. The vaccine will protect you, your family, and friends, as well as lower community spread of the COVID-19 virus which will ultimately help protect everyone, including those most at risk, in the community. Receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is the safest choice for most people as the vaccines are safe and effective.  A serious complication from a COVID-19 infection is much more likely than a serious complication from the vaccine.  

Learn more about what to expect at vaccine clinic, how to prepare, and how to book your appointment on our COVID-19 Vaccine page

Informed Consent 

Every COVID-19 vaccine requires informed consent. All individuals, including youth born in 2009 or earlier, can provide informed consent as long as they have the capacity to make the decision. This means the individual must be able to understand the treatment, why it is recommended, and the risks and benefits if they accept or refuse the vaccine. If the individual cannot consent to receiving the vaccine, they require consent from their decision-maker, such as parents or a legal guardian.

Ontario’s Health Care Consent Act has no minimum age to provide consent for medical treatment(s), including vaccination. (https://www.ontario.ca/laws/statute/96h02)

We must respect each other’s decisions regarding vaccination. Consider discussing your vaccination plan with your family prior to attending one of our vaccine clinics.  

Needle Related Fainting 

This occurs when the brain (your control center) does not receive enough fuel (oxygen), due to a drop in blood pressure causing you to lose control and awareness for a short period of time. This drop in blood pressure is called the vasovagal response. 

Fainting is more common in those with needle fear. But not everyone who faints due to needles is afraid of them. And not everyone who is afraid of needles will faint. 

To stop fainting during vaccination, try using muscle tension. Muscle tension increases someone’s blood pressure prior to and during the needle. When the needle is presented, their blood pressure does not drop to a low level, preventing fainting.

Who can use this technique? 

Muscle tension is a safe technique that children 7 and older and adults can use. Muscle tension can help anyone who gets dizzy and faints during needles. 

Try this exercise when you get your vaccine:

  1. Sit in a chair. 
  2. Tense or squeeze the muscles in the legs and stomach. 
  3. Squeeze for about 10-15 seconds until your face feels flushed or warm.
  4. Release the tension for 20-30 seconds.  
  5. Repeat steps 2, 3, and 4 until the needle is over, or until the feeling of faintness passes.

*Remember not to tense the arm where the needle will go. You can also lay down while getting vaccinated, which may also prevent fainting. 

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Youth Clinics

To prepare for your vaccine appointment, play your CARDS:

Comfort, Ask, Relax, Distract graphic.

  • C – Comfort
    • Review information about the COVID-19 vaccine before attending your appointment or drop-in clinic.
    • Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing the day of the appointment or drop-in clinic
  • A – Ask Questions
    • Speak to someone you trust about the COVID-19 vaccine before booking the appointment. A medical professional or care provider should be able to provide accurate information about the COVID-19 vaccine and tips for relaxing at your vaccine appointment.
    • If you have questions at your vaccine appointment, ask your immunizer or a staff member at the clinic, they would be happy to help!
  • R – Relax
    • Try to relax at your appointment. Use a relaxing breathing technique or ask your vaccinator to tell you a funny story.
  • D – Distract
    • If you are a person that doesn’t like needles, distract yourself.
    • Look at your phone or a bring a book to read. Ask your vaccinator about their day.

Learn more about the CARD system here.

What can I expect?

When you arrive at our youth clinics, you will be greeted by our staff and guided through the entire process of vaccination. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask our clinic staff. Remember, you do not have to receive your vaccine if you do not feel comfortable doing so. 

Use the following strategies to improve your overall vaccination experience: 

  • Use the CARD system to make needles more comfortable.
  • Try to eat something before vaccination and afterwards.
  • You will receive the vaccine in the upper arm. Wear short sleeves or something easy to pull up so that the upper arm can be reached easily.
  • Bring any supplies you need, such as something to distract you.
  • You will be asked to follow safety measures, including physical distancing, wearing a mask, and washing your hands frequently.
  • Be calm and positive.
  • Do not tense your arm where the needle is going in – keep it loose or jiggly like cooked spaghetti.
  • If you feel faint or get dizzy during needles, you can squeeze your knees together or lie down.
  • Have acetaminophen available to treat common side effects. Let your health care provider know if you are experiencing any side effects that worry you.
  • Keep a record of the vaccine you received. Do not attend your appointment if you are sick, self-isolating, or waiting for a COVID-19 test result. Try to get vaccinated as soon as you can after you feel better.
  • You will also be asked to continue to follow safety measures after the procedure and to follow the general advice of public health officials for when you are at home or out and about.

What can I bring?

You can bring whatever you need to feel comfortable, including:

  • A toy
  • A book
  • Music with headphones
  • Your phone
  • A loved one 

Fear of Needles

Trypanophobia is known as the fear of needles. Many people experience this fear during vaccination. Vaccine injections are frequently associated with pain, fear, fainting, nausea, and other stress-related responses. 

It is very common for youth and adults to be nervous or anxious about receiving a vaccine. If you or a youth in your life wants to get the COVID-19 vaccine but are afraid of the needle, try these helpful tips! 

Managing your fear during vaccination:

Distraction 

  • Listen to music
  • Close your eyes and face the other way
  • Tell a story

Focus on the Positive

  • Praise for doing well
  • Talk about the benefits of getting the vaccine
  • Consider a reward after the needle 

Make Yourself Comfortable:

  • Try to eat something before vaccination and afterwards.
  • Wear short sleeves or something easy to pull up so that the upper arm can be reached easily.
  • Have acetaminophen available to treat common side effects. Let your health care provider know if you are experiencing any side effects that worry you.

Positive Coping Statements: 

  •  “It really won’t hurt that much”
  • “I can do that”
  • “It will be over in a few seconds” 

Breathing Exercises: 

  • Slow deep breaths can be very calming. Focus on breathing to help shift the focus off of the needle.

Pfizer Safety in Youth

Through continued research, the Pfizer Vaccine has been approved for emergency use to vaccinate individuals aged 12-17. In a US based study, with over 2,000 participants, the Pfizer showed 100% efficacy in participants aged 12 to 15 against confirmed COVID-19 illness. Antibody/immune response was very strong one month after the second dose and was stronger than the antibody responses in those 16 to 26 years old. Participants included representation from diverse groups within the Black, Indigenous and Persons of Colour (BIPOC) communities.Pfizer-Biontech Announces Positive Topline Results Pivotal

COVID-19 vaccines do not contain eggs, gelatin (pork), gluten, latex, preservatives, antibiotics or aluminum.

Vaccine side effects are similar in youth and adults. Most vaccine side effects are mild, lasting 1 to 3 days:

  • Pain/discomfort, redness, itching & swelling where the injection was given
  • headache, fatigue, muscle ache, joint pain
  • fever, chills, nausea or vomiting
  • swelling & tenderness in the armpit / enlarged lymph nodes

Stay at the clinic for at least 15 minutes after vaccination so you can be monitored, and treated, for any reactions. Report other symptoms or symptoms lasting longer than 3 days to your healthcare provider.

The Risks and Benefits of the COVID-19 Vaccine

Shouldn’t I wait until more data comes out, the WHO endorses youth vaccinations, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gives full approval on COVID-19 vaccines for youth? 

Getting vaccinated is the most important thing you can do to protect your family, friends and community against COVID-19. The vaccine is safe and effective for youth The vaccine is safe and effective for youth born in 2009 or earlier, is manufactured to the highest quality and prepares the immune system to fight against COVID-19. Both the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends COVID-19 vaccination for those 12 years of age and older. And, millions of children aged 12 to 17 in the United States have received the Pfizer vaccine without any serious side effects. 

Are the long-term effects of the COVID-19 vaccine for children determined? 

Long-term side effects are extremely unlikely following any vaccination, including COVID-19 vaccination. Vaccine monitoring has historically shown that side effects generally happen within six weeks of receiving a vaccine dose. Millions of people have received COVID-19 vaccines, and no long-term side effects have been detected.

The benefits of getting vaccinated and being protected against COVID-19 outweigh the risks of potential long-term side effects from the vaccine. COVID-19 infection is much more likely to cause longer-lasting symptoms and health problems in some people, including children.

How common is myocarditis and/or pericarditis in youth? 

No clear link has been shown between myocarditis/pericarditis and mRNA vaccines

In Canada, there have been a small number of cases of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart muscle) and/or pericarditis (inflammation of lining outside the heart) following vaccination have been reported, however it is important to note that adverse events occurring after vaccination are not necessarily related to the vaccine. Most cases occurred in young adult males under 30 years of age after the second dose of vaccine, and most had mild illness and recovered quickly (they responded well to conservative treatment such as anti-inflammatories and rest).

How do you know that the COVID-19 vaccine won’t impact my child’s fertility?

There is no evidence that the COVID-19 vaccine causes male or female infertility.

Won’t the COVID-19 vaccine put my child at risk for an allergic reaction? 

Serious allergic reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine are very rare. To be safe, everyone who gets vaccinated is monitored for at least 15 minutes in case an allergic reaction occurs. COVID-19 vaccines do not contain eggs, gelatin (pork), gluten, latex, preservatives, antibiotics or aluminum. Those who have a known allergic reaction to one of the ingredients in the Pfizer vaccine or to a previous dose of the vaccine should see an allergist/immunologist before getting vaccinated. 

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