“Did it hurt?”
Tayler’s mom, Myrna Mada, waits anxiously beside her daughter as she gets one of the first COVID-19 vaccines delivered to clinically extremely vulnerable children at BC Children’s Hospital.
“It felt like nothing. I didn’t really feel anything,” says 16-year-old Tayler. “It hurt less than the flu shot.”
That’s the reaction most kids have had to the COVID-19 vaccines, says Annie Lau, a Health Resource Nurse in the BC Children’s Family Immunization Clinic.
“When it’s done, many say ‘That’s it?’ and I just say ‘That’s all,’” she laughs. “That’s the best part of my job.”
Tayler has asthma and received the COVID-19 vaccine after the B.C. Government announced clinically extremely vulnerable people aged 16 to 74, who receive a patient invitation letter, can get vaccinated.
Now, B.C. is opening registration and appointment bookings for the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to all youth and adolescents age 12 and older. A complete series of two doses of the vaccine is recommended.
Health Canada has already authorized the use of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age and the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) has also released a statement recommending that a complete series of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine be offered to individuals 12 to 18 years of age.
Clinical trial evidence showed 100 per cent efficacy in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age against confirmed COVID-19 illness.
Annie says there is some apprehension among youth in getting the COVID-19 vaccine, and that is normal.
“They’re very eager to get protected, but there are a lot of fears and anxieties and that’s the truth,” says Annie. “These youth are such an incredible generation. They know getting their vaccine is important and they work through their anxiety. It’s good, if we have the opportunity, to make sure they are immunized and protected.”
Dr. Julie Bettinger, a professor of pediatrics for UBC and BC Children's Hospital Vaccine Evaluation Center, says vaccinating youth is important to protect them from serious illness and to help B.C. reach herd immunity to curb the spread of the virus.
“Epidemiologists estimate that about 80 per cent of the population need immunity to curtail the spread of COVID-19,” says Bettinger. “Simply vaccinating adults will not get us there. There will be some who can’t get the vaccine and some who choose not to. Youth need to be protected and included in vaccination too.”
Since the beginning of the pandemic, approximately 20 per cent of cases of COVID-19 in Canada have been reported in people under the age of 19. While younger people are less likely to experience serious outcomes of COVID-19, having access to a safe and effective vaccine will help protect them against severe COVID-19 disease and could indirectly protect those around them, including vulnerable populations and those who are not eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
Some BC Children’s patients aren’t yet eligible for the vaccine and depend on the public around them to be vaccinated.
“We worry about the little ones not eligible yet for the vaccine,” says Dr. Caron Strahlendorf, who treats cancer, transplant and hematology patients at BC Children’s. “I think if there’s one message, it’s that COVID-19 has taught us how vaccines can really make a difference. For our immunocompromised children, any infection could have devastating consequences and some of our families have no choice but to be out and about in society. Single parents, for instance, have to take their young children grocery shopping and some even have to take transit.”
As for Tayler, she’s hoping the vaccine allows her to one day get back to normal life.
“I just hope that this shot helps to protect me, and others around me,” says Tayler as she heads home from BC Children’s.
Though vaccines are being distributed across B.C., public health measures remain the foundation of the pandemic response. It is important that everyone, regardless of vaccination status, continue to follow recommended public health measures.
The Pfizer-BioNTech is the first COVID-19 vaccine in Canada to be authorized for use in adolescents. Based on a phase 3 clinical trial that included 2,260 children 12 to 15 years of age, the vaccine was 100 per cent effective at preventing symptomatic COVID-19. The study used the same two-dose regimen tested in individuals 16 years of age and older.
This study was conducted in the U.S. between October 2020 and March 2021. The efficacy of the vaccine on variants of concern was not assessed in the clinical trial. However, variants were in circulation in the U.S. at that time and the efficacy data suggest that the vaccine continues to work well despite the prevalence of variants of concern.
Youth with allergies to any of the vaccine ingredients should not get the vaccine.
For more information visit about common side effects and tips managing the side effects, visit the Vaccination Aftercare handout. Symptoms such as hives, swelling of the face, tongue or throat or difficulty breathing are signs of a severe allergic reaction and you should seek medical attention or call 9-1-1 right away.
In clinical trials, the immune response elicited in those aged 12 to 15 years of age was consistent with the immune response in those 16 to 25 years of age. Children are expected to experience similar side effects as adults, though may experience some of them, like headache, chills and fever, more often.
Based on Canada’s anticipated vaccine supply, all individuals for whom a vaccine is recommended will be able to get their first dose by summer 2021.
Data from Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine trials in children aged two years and older could be available as early as this fall.
To get you or your child vaccinated, please see the Government of BC website.