Doctors Manitoba town hall addresses concerns around pediatric COVID-19 vaccine

WINNIPEG –

With the COVID-19 vaccine now available for children between the ages of 5 and 11 in the province, a group of doctors addressed some questions and concerns parents may have before rolling up their child’s sleeve.

Doctors Manitoba hosted a virtual town hall on Tuesday evening about the pediatric COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr. Jared Bullard, a section head of pediatric infectious diseases at University of Manitoba and associate medical director of Cadham Lab, said while the risk of COVID-19 is lower for children compared to adults, the virus does still pose a risk.

He said about 17,000 kids in Manitoba have had confirmed cases of COVID-19, including about 80 children who have been in hospital and 16 children who have been in ICU. He said three Manitoba children have died of COVID-19 or complications due to COVID-19.

Dr. Ruth Grimes, president of the Canadian Paediatric Society, said besides protecting your children from any severe outcomes of COVID-19 – vaccinating your child also protects those in the community.

“This is all about protecting our community,” Grimes said. “In protecting our own children, we are addressing the concerns for protecting our community.”

ARE THERE ANY RISKS OR SIDE EFFECTS IN VACCINATING MY CHILD?

Bullard said the pediatric dose of the Pfizer vaccine – which is one third of a regular dose – has been studied in a group of around 5,000 children. He said researchers have found the vaccine is safe for children and does not cause severe adverse reactions.

“I do fully consider the vaccine safe,” he said. “I wouldn’t have got it for my son if I didn’t believe that.”

Dr. Marni Hanna, president of the Manitoba Pediatric Society, said the vaccine may cause some soreness, redness or swelling on the arm where the vaccine is administered when a child gets the shot.

“They may experience fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, headaches, achy joints, or less commonly, nausea, diarrhea or vomiting and that is most likely to happen within 48 hours of getting the vaccine,” she said.

“These systemic effects were less common in the trials with 5 to 11-year-old children compared to people over 12.”

She said parents can give their child Tylenol or Advil if their child does have any of these side effects.

Hanna said there is no evidence at all that the vaccine causes any future fertility issues for children, and it does not alter a child’s development.

Dr. Joss Reimer, the medical lead of Manitoba’s vaccine implementation task force, said the vaccine does not cause long-term impacts.

“We know a lot about the immune system and how it responds to vaccines, how it responds to infections. And what we see in every other infection and every other vaccine is a lack of long-term surprise side effects,” she said.

“We are very reassured that this will be the same thing because the immune system hasn’t changed. The way our immune system responds to the triggers that are in that vaccine is not different with this vaccine than it is with other vaccines.”

Reimer said the pediatric dose of the Pfizer vaccine is currently the only vaccine approved for children in the 5 to 11 age group in Canada. She said the pediatric vaccine is essentially the same vaccine that is given to adults, it is just a smaller dose.

She said so far in Manitoba, more than 11,200 doses have been administered in this age group.

You can watch the full town hall with the Doctors Manitoba panel here.

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