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Talking to your Youth about the COVID-19 Vaccine

by Heather Gliva
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As the province ramps up its vaccination efforts once again, it can bring about a range of emotions, especially for youth.

It could bring excitement that there is now a more clear path for the return to “normal”, but it could also bring about anxiety and questions. Why can’t youth under 16 get vaccinated yet? What are the risks to their parents, grandparents and other family members getting the vaccine?

Here is a bit of background information on the two mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna) being distributed in Canada, and answers to a couple of questions your youth may be asking you.

The Pfizer Vaccine is being given to those over 16 years old in two doses spaced 21 days apart, and trials show it has a 95% effectiveness rate.

The Moderna Vaccine is being given to those over 18 years old in two doses spaced 28 days apart, with an effectiveness rate of 94.1%.

An mRNA Vaccine doesn’t inject any of the virus into your body. Instead, you are getting “blueprints” to the virus. Your body is going to read the information the vaccine provids and say, “Oh… I don’t like this guy. We need to prepare.”. That way, if you do end up catching COVID-19, your body is able to recognize and attack it quickly so you feel better faster and are less likely to have severe side effects.

Why Can’t I Have the Vaccine if I’m under 16/18?

When doing vaccine trials, Moderna and Pfizer didn’t start testing on youth and teenagers until much later, so there isn’t enough data yet to approve the vaccines for those under 16/18. Youth have more active immune systems than adults, so may react differently to the vaccine, and they often have less severe COVID-19 symptoms than adults. Both vaccines are now doing trials on youth aged 12 and up.

Should I be Worried Watching my Parent get the Vaccine?

For youth that are nervous that their parents are receiving the vaccine – understanding that when they receive it – just like any new vaccine (and every year with the flu vaccine), the person must be monitored by a health care professional for at least 15-30 minutes. There have been no direct links to the COVID-19 vaccine causing death in individuals. Some individuals have had allergic reactions which is a concern we have in any vaccine being given, and part of why everyone is closely monitored afterwards.

Youth can expect their parents to possibly have a fever, muscle aches, fatigue – a general feeling of not feeling well for a couple of days. Many personal accounts state that after the first couple of days while their body created the immune response, they feel completely back to normal.

Resources:

https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/covid-19/info-by-product/clinical-considerations.html
https://www.cbc.ca/news/health/kids-vaccine-covid-19-1.5826606
- From Ontario Ministry of Health: About Vaccines, Vaccine Administration, Vaccine Availability and Rollout, Approval Process and Safety, Vaccine Information Sheet
- Toronto Public Health COVID-19 Vaccines Fact Sheet
- Kitchener Today: Misconceptions Around COVID-19 Vaccines
- The Record: Pfizer and Moderna Vaccine FAQs