COVID-19 Vaccination and Children 5 to 11 years old

Last revised: January 18, 2022

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 Everyone aged 5 years or older at the time of their appointment is currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Learn how to get a vaccine

Getting your vaccine

Learn more about Ottawa Public Health's plan to offer COVID-19 vaccines to children ages five to 11 years old

After School COVID clinics have been paused for the time being. Please book 5-11 year old children in our community clinics.

Booking a vaccine appointment

Everyone aged 5 years or older at the time of their appointment is currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Learn how to get a vaccine

Appointments and drop-ins:  

To support children's access to the vaccine, most appointments available through Ottawa Public Health will be protected in the booking system for 5 to 11-year-olds. Due to limited drop-in capacity, we recommend that residents book an appointment on the Provincial booking system.  

Additionally, our recommendation is to book an appointment for each child or family member who is eligible for a vaccine. Anyone who does not have a scheduled appointment will be considered a drop-in. Drop-in capacity at the clinics will be limited and we cannot guarantee the timing or availability of drop-in appointments. If members of the same family have appointments at different times, on the same day or different days, they can all be vaccinated together at the time of the earliest appointment.

Who can receive first, second or third doses of the vaccine?

Who can receive their first dose?

  • Everyone aged 5 years or older at the time of their appointment is currently eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.
  • The Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/COVISHIELD vaccines require two doses. All residents are encouraged to get vaccinated as soon as they can, and to receive their second dose as soon as they are eligible to ensure maximum protection against COVID-19. 
Who can receive their second dose?

Second doses are available as follows: 

The optimal interval between the first and second dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is 8 weeks. The optimal interval between the first and second dose of an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is at least 8 weeks. 

Who can receive their third dose?

Wondering why you should get a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine? Visit our frequently asked questions about COVID-19 vaccination page.

Third (booster) dose eligibility 

The current surge driven by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, is increasing the likelihood most people will come in contact with someone who has COVID-19 and may become ill with the virus. Right now, vaccination and maintaining public health measures, like masking, avoiding gatherings, and staying home when sick, remain our strongest defense.

Third (booster doses) of the COVID-19 vaccine are being provided in an expedited way to protect more people in our community from severe illness and complications due to COVID-19.

Third doses (booster doses) of the COVID-19 vaccine are recommended for the following populations if at least 84 days (approximately three months) have passed since their last dose:

  • Individuals aged 18 and over (born in 2003 or earlier);
  • Individuals who received a complete series of a viral vector vaccine (two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine or one dose of the Janssen vaccine); and
  • First Nation, Inuit and Métis adults (16+) and their non-Indigenous household members. 

Eligible residents can now drop-in to any Ottawa Public Health community clinic to receive their booster dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Residents may also book an appointment at a community clinic through the Provincial COVID-19 Vaccination Portal or by calling the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900. 

Please note 84 days (approximately 3 months) must have passed since your second dose before you receive your booster dose.

Three-dose primary series for individuals who are immunocompromised

Some individuals who are immunocompromised can get a third dose of the COVID-19 vaccine eight weeks after their second dose as part of an extended primary series. Note that in some cases the interval may be shortened as advised by your health care provider or specialist.

Contact your health care provider to see if you are eligible.

You might be eligible if you are:

  • a transplant recipient (including solid organ transplant and hematopoietic stem cell transplants)
  • receiving stable, active treatment (chemotherapy, targeted therapies, immunotherapy) for a malignant hematologic disorder or solid tumor
  • in receipt of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR)-T-cell
  • an individual with moderate or severe primary immunodeficiency (for example, DiGeorge syndrome, Wiskott-Aldrich syndrome)
  • Stage 3 or advanced untreated HIV infection and those with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
  • undergoing active treatment with the following categories of immunosuppressive therapies: anti-B cell therapies (monoclonal antibodies targeting CD19, CD20 and CD22), high-dose systemic corticosteroids, alkylating agents, antimetabolites, or tumor-necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors and other biologic agents that are significantly immunosuppressive or are taking specific immunosuppressant medications
  • receiving dialysis (hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis)

The third dose of vaccine will be given at least two months (8 weeks) after the second dose. Please note both Moderna and Pfizer vaccines will be offered. Drop-in vaccinations are available for third doses at any community clinic in Ottawa during their hours of operation.

Ottawa residents who meet these criteria must present one of the following to receive their third dose:

  • A letter from their specialist or hospital program; OR
  • Current prescription package, label or pharmacy receipt of an immunosuppressant medication listed by the Ontario government. The prescription must clearly label: patient name, name of medication, date of dispensing, and name of prescribing doctor.

Residents of Long-Term Care Homes (LTCH), Retirement Homes (RH), Elder Care Lodges, and elderly living in other congregate settings will also be offered a third dose, or in some cases a fourth dose. Ottawa Public Health is working with these groups directly to offer a third dose or fourth dose to residents in those settings 

If your child does not have a valid health card but is eligible for a vaccine, please call Ottawa Public Health at 613-691-5505 to book an appointment.

What is the optimal interval between the first and second dose for 2-dose COVID-19 vaccines for children?

The optimal interval between the first and second dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine is eight weeks. The optimal interval between the first and second dose of an AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is at least eight weeks.  

  • More data has become available that suggests that protection can be improved upon when the interval between the first and second doses are extended beyond the original manufacturer’s recommended interval (e.g., 21 days between first and second dose of a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine). 
  • As per NACI, there is emerging safety data that suggest that a longer interval between dose one and two may reduce the risk of myocarditis/pericarditis after the second dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.
  • These intervals appear to provide optimal protection while simultaneously minimizing the time at risk of infection due to having protection from only one dose.  
  • Individuals may choose to speak with their primary care provider about what interval is best for them considering the local transmission of COVID-19 and the degree of individual risk of exposure.  
  • The authorized interval may still be used with informed parental consent.
    • You can get your child’s second dose 21 days after their first by providing informed consent at one of our clinics or by calling the province at 1-833-943-3900.
  • Interruption of a vaccine series resulting in a greater interval between doses than recommended does not require re-starting the series. 

References

National Advisory Committee on Immunization (2021). Recommendations on the use of COVID-19 vaccines.

Ministry of Health (2021). COVID-19 Vaccine Administration, Version 2.0.

Can anyone attend an after-school COVID-19 vaccination clinic to get a COVID-19 vaccination?

After-school COVID-19 vaccination clinics are intended for children aged 5 to 11 years, their families and household members in the surrounding community, born in 2016 or earlier.

For others interested in receiving their first, second or third doses please visit our Community Clinics section to find other clinic options available to you.

If my child has symptoms or was told to self-isolate can they still go to their vaccine appointment?

No. If your child has COVID-19 symptoms or has been told to self-isolate then their COVID-19 vaccination appointment should be rescheduled to a later date. Screening for our vaccine clinics is the same as for schools and daycares in Ottawa. In other words, if your child is permitted to go to school or daycare, then they can attend their vaccine appointment. If you are still unsure if they can attend, please complete our COVID-19 screening tool for school or child care.

Reducing pain during vaccination

Needles can be scary (and not just for parents). Here are some helpful ways to help reduce pain for your child when they get their vaccine.

Prepare your child ahead of time

  • Read stories about what happens when you visit the doctor.
  • Offer an honest explanation about what to expect. Prepare older children the day before.
  • Describe how vaccination will feel (for example, like a pinch).
  • Tell your child what they can do to ease the pain (for example, sit still, breathe deeply, relax the arm).

Distract your child

  • Draw your child's attention away from the needle. This is one of the best ways that you can help your child. 
  • Distract your child with a favourite toy or blanket, a book, music, singing, or telling a joke or a story.
  • Tell your child to take a deep breath and to blow it out slowly. Blowing bubbles or blowing on a pinwheel can help also. 

Position your child in an upright position

Hold your young child securely in a comforting hug, sitting upright on your lap, facing forward, or facing you (front to front), with the arm exposed.  Lying flat on their back during an injection, or being held too tightly, can be scary for children and can increase their fear. Older children can sit alone if they wish, with the arm exposed.

If your child continues to move, ask your healthcare provider about the proper hold technique that is safest for your child.

Following the vaccine

Your child may feel minor pain at the injection site or feel unwell 24 – 48 hours following their vaccine. You can give Acetaminophen to help with pain. For any unexpected side effects please contact their family care provider, consult your post vaccine care handout and the After your COVID-19 vaccine (Ministry of Health) handout.  

Will children aged 5-11 be vaccinated without parent or guardian consent?

Consent by a parent or guardian will be required for COVID-19 vaccination for children aged five to 11 at all OPH clinics. Children will not be vaccinated if their parent or guardian are not present. If a parent or legal guardian can not attend the child’s appointment with the child, in person, they have the option of filling out the online COVID-19 Vaccine Children/ Youth consent form.

The parent/legal guardian will need to print the entire form, review it and sign it. The parent/legal guardian must write their phone number on the consent form where it states “parent/legal guardian phone”.   

The signed paper consent form must be brought to the appointment with the child. The parent/legal guardian must be available for a phone call from the OPH clinic staff to verify the consent form.  Please read the COVID-19 Vaccine Information Sheet: For Children (age 5-11) before the child’s appointment. 

Take a tour of our COVID-19 vaccination clinic

How to prepare for your vaccination appointment

Why should children get vaccinated?

Importance of vaccination

English: Deciding to vaccinate your child against COVID-19 - Help from an Ottawa paediatric doctor - YouTube 

Français (French) : Décidez-vous de vacciner votre enfant contre la COVID-19? - L'aide d'une pédiatre d'Ottawa - YouTube

Arabic: You tube - هستید COVID-19 چنانچه در حال تصمیم گیری برای انجام واکسیناسیون کودک خود در مقابل 

Farsi: You tube - هستید COVID-19 چنانچه در حال تصمیم گیری برای انجام واکسیناسیون کودک خود در مقابل

Español (Spanish): Decidir a vacunar a su hijo contra el COVID-19 – Ayuda de una pediatra de Ottawa - YouTube

Info session on the COVID-19 vaccine for kids 5-11

Alex Munter, president and CEO of the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario is joined CHEO Dr. Anne Pham-Huy and Ottawa Public Health's Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Vera Etches as well as public health nurse Katie Souliere to discuss the ongoing COVID-19 vaccination of kids aged 5-11.

The health impacts that COVID-19 has on children

Children account for about 13% of the total confirmed COVID-19 cases reported in Ontario and make up about 19% of Ontario’s population. The most common way children become infected is through close contact with a confirmed case.

COVID-19 affects children differently than adults. There is a lower percentage of COVID related hospitalizations, ICU admissions, deaths, and severe complications/outcomes with children.

The impact of COVID-19 infection may be lesser, but the mental impact on children has shown to be very significant. COVID-19 has resulted in loss of in-person school and reduced social interactions with peers meaning increased stress and negative mental health for children.  

Vaccination is a means to ensuring children can continue their routines of daily life and not miss out on important things. 

Do children who are fully vaccinated have to self-isolate or get tested if exposed to COVID-19?
If a child does not have any symptoms of COVID-19 and were fully vaccinated at the time of their high-risk exposure to someone with COVID-19, they do not need to self-isolate at home or in the community. However, there are some exceptions

If someone is fully vaccinated and develops symptoms of COVID-19, they are still required to self-isolate and seek testing.

Note: Fully vaccinated means that it has been at least 14 days since you received:​

  • the full series of a COVID-19 vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., 2 doses of Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca/COVIDSHIELD, OR 1 dose of Janssen [Johnson & Johnson]) or any combination of such vaccines, OR​
  • one or two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Sinopharm) followed by one dose of a COVID-19 mRNA vaccine authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna) OR​
  • three doses of a COVID-19 vaccine not authorized by Health Canada (e.g., Abdala).​
What is the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccine for children 5-11 years of age?

Vaccine efficacy is a representation of how well a vaccine will work at preventing illness caused by a particular virus.   

Clinical trials showed that beginning 1 week after the second dose, the Pfizer-BioNTech Comirnaty® COVID vaccine was about 90.7% effective for those 5 to 11 years old. 

Please view Ottawa Public Health’s Vaccine Effectiveness FAQs and the Health Canada website for more information.

Help build community immunity

Community immunity is reached when enough people have protection against a disease, which makes it unlikely that a virus or bacteria can spread and cause more infections. This protection can be either from a previous infection or vaccination. As a result,  the whole population within the community is protected. But those who are not protected because they have never had the disease, did not get vaccinated or the vaccine was not as effective for them can still get sick. This is why it is not a good idea to rely on community immunity to protect yourself instead of getting vaccinated.

The percentage of people who need to have protection to reach community immunity varies by disease. 

Some estimates for COVID-19 suggest it may be near 60 to 70%. However, community immunity calculations may not be reliable in the context of COVID-19 because of many unknowns. The effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing asymptomatic infection remains unknown right now. For this reason, community immunity calculations will only give an estimated target for vaccination programs.

Until the effects of the COVID-19 vaccines have been fully studied, it is best to not assume that vaccinations will protect others. We must continue to protect ourselves and others by:

  • wearing a mask
  • practicing physical distancing
  • practicing hand hygiene
  • staying home and getting tested when sick

These measures will help to continue to stop the spread of COVID-19. 

For more information on COVID-19 vaccines, visit: OttawaPublicHealth.ca/COVID19Vaccine

Be social wise while we build community immunity

Remember that until enough people are immunized against COVID-19, we still must follow social wise public health guidelines to protect ourselves and others. Even those who are fully vaccinated will need to:

  • W - Wear a mask or face covering where required or when you cannot maintain a physical distance of two metres (six feet).
  • I - Isolate yourself from others when you are sick and get tested immediately if you have COVID-like symptoms.
  • S - Share your enthusiasm with friends and family about being fully vaccinated and encourage them to get vaccinated.
  • E - Exercise proper hand hygiene; wash your hands regularly or use hand sanitizer especially before touching your face. 

In addition to being Social Wise, you can reduce risk further by avoiding or reducing time spent in the 3 C’s:

  • Closed spaces
  • Crowded places
  • Close contact

Vaccine safety, approval and myths

How do I know that vaccines are safe?

On Friday, November 19, 2021, Health Canada authorized the use of the paediatric Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11. Health Canada has one of the most rigorous scientific review systems in the world and only approves a vaccine if it is safe, works, and meets the highest manufacturing and quality standards.

Vaccines undergo a comprehensive review of their safety, quality and efficacy (how well they work) before they are approved and can be used in Canada. After approval, vaccines are continually monitored through a “vaccine safety surveillance” to ensure their safety.

Ottawa Public Health is involved in this surveillance process by investigating all reports of an Adverse Event Following Immunization (AEFI) and reporting them to Public Health Ontario.

An AEFI is a serious or unexpected reaction that happens after someone receives a vaccine, which may or may not be caused by the vaccine. In Ontario, health professionals like nurses and doctors are required to report AEFIs to their local public health unit like Ottawa Public Health. For more information on this process you can visit Public Health Ontario’s website.

How the vaccines are studied and tested for children and youth

Health Canada evaluates drugs and vaccines before they can be sold in Canada. They also monitor real-world evidence while they are on the market.

When a company decides it would like to sell a drug or vaccine in Canada, it files a submission with Health Canada. A new drug submission contains detailed scientific information about the drug's safety, efficacy and quality.

Health Canada scientific reviewers evaluate data to assess the potential benefits and risks of a drug or vaccine. They also review the information that will be provided to health care practitioners and consumers about the product. After the review, they may authorize the drug or vaccine for sale in Canada only if the benefits of the product outweigh the potential risks.

Learn more about the drug and vaccine authorizations for COVID-19 on Health Canada's website.

What are the side-effects of the vaccine in kids and how can I support my child to deal with them?

The Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (10 mcg) has been shown to be safe and effective in the 5-11 age group. It is even being studied in younger age groups as well.  

There were no serious side effects related to the vaccine reported in this age group. Local reactions including pain, redness and swelling at the injection site were very common. They were mostly mild to moderate in severity. The local reactions generally started about 1-2 days after receiving the vaccination and lasted about 1-2 days.  

Other reactions included: 

  • fatigue,  

  • headaches,  

  • muscle pain,  

  • chills,  

  • fever, and  

  • joint pain  

These reactions occurred more frequently after the second dose and were mild to moderate in severity. They generally started about 1 to 4 days after either dose of the vaccine and lasted about one day. Find more information about Reducing pain during vaccination.

If someone experiences an adverse event following immunization (AEFI), they should report it to a healthcare professional (e.g., family doctor). An AEFI is an unwanted or unexpected health effect that happens after someone receives a vaccine, which may or may not be caused by the vaccine. There is a safety system to monitor for AEFIs and to investigate them. You can find more information on what is done if someone develops an adverse reaction here: If a person develops an adverse reaction, what should be done? 

For more information, please visit: 

What is the risk of myocarditis/pericarditis from the COVID-19 vaccine vs from COVID-19 Infection for children?  

COVID-19 affects children differently than adults. There is a lower percentage of COVID related hospitalizations, ICU admissions, deaths, and severe complications/outcomes with children. But children with COVID-19 infection are at risk of MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome). MIS-C is a rare but serious syndrome that can occur several weeks after a COVID-19 infection. Myocarditis and pericarditis can also occur as a complication of COVID-19 infection in children, but this is rare.  

In Canada, there have been reported cases of myocarditis and pericarditis in people 12 years and over who received the 30mcg dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine or the 100mcg dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. It is important to note that the risk is rare.  

Currently, the risk of myocarditis/pericarditis in children following immunization with the recommended 5–11-year-old 10mcg dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is unknown. Based on the studies done so far, myocarditis and/or pericarditis were not detected. Safety surveillance data from individuals aged 12 and older does not suggest the risk of myocarditis/pericarditis following mRNA COVID-19 vaccination would be greater in children aged 5-11 years compared to older populations. Also, data from older age groups also suggests that an extended interval between the first and second dose (at least 8 weeks) may also be associated with a reduced risk of myocarditis/pericarditis following a second dose of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine.  

Children who have a history of myocarditis unrelated to mRNA COVID-19 vaccination should consult their health care provider for recommendations. Please seek medical attention if your child develops symptoms including chest pain, shortness of breath, or palpitations following immunization with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of Canada and NACI (National Advisory Committee on Immunization) will continue to monitor and review the emerging evidence on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. They will update their recommendation, as well as its strength, as the evidence base evolves.  

For more information, please read: 

Can my child get their COVID-19 vaccine if they have recently received another vaccine or will be getting one soon? 

At this time, based on recommendations from the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), Ottawa Public Health will not be providing co-administration of the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11, with other vaccines. This means that when your child receives their COVID-19 vaccine, they will not be given other vaccines at the same time.

NACI recommends that children receive the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (10 mcg) at least 14 days before or after another vaccine. This is a precaution to help to determine if a side effect that may arise is due to the COVID-19 vaccine or another vaccine. There may be circumstances when a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and another vaccine need to be given at the same time. A healthcare provider can help with this decision.

There are no specific safety concerns when routine vaccines are given at the same time or within days of each other. There could be stronger, temporary side effects when a COVID-19 vaccine and another vaccine are given at the same time or within days of each other. Ottawa Public Health recommends that children receiving their COVID-19 vaccine follow the NACI guidance and :

  • Not receive a COVID-19 vaccine within 14 days of a non-COVID-19 vaccine
  • Not receive a non-COVID-19 vaccine within 14 days of a COVID-19 vaccine
Can children who have already tested positive for COVID-19 get a COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. According to the NACI Statement Summary- November 19, 2021:, children with a previous COVID-19 infection may be offered two doses of the vaccine once symptoms of acute illness have resolved and the child is no longer considered infectious, based on current criteria. They should wait until they have recovered, and public health has told them they no longer need to self-isolate, before getting vaccinated. The child must complete their isolation before getting a vaccine so that they do not expose others at a vaccination clinic to the virus.  

Children with a history of MIS-C (multisystem inflammatory syndrome) may be vaccinated once they have recovered or once it has been more than 90 days since diagnosis, whichever is longer. There is no information that suggests that antibodies from a recent SARS-CoV-2 infection would interfere with vaccine efficacy. 

My child is 11 years old. Should I wait until they are 12 years old and get the ‘larger’ dose, or get the dose that is available to them now?

No, you should not wait until your child is 12 to get the ‘larger’/adult dose. Children should get the first COVID-19 vaccine that is available to them. At Ottawa Public Health clinics, children who are 11 (born in 2010) will receive the 10-mcg dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine. Only the 10-mcg pediatric formulation of the vaccine has been assessed for safety in the 5-11 year old population in clinical trials and these trials did not indicate any serious safety concerns. 

The 10 micrograms (mcg) vaccine is approved for use in children aged 5-11 years, compared to the 30-mcg vaccine which is approved for adolescents and adults 12 years of age and older. 

According to the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI), clinical trial data indicates the pediatric formulation of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (10 mcg) produces a good immune response in children 5-11 years of age, similar to the response seen in young adults 16-25 years of age who receive the adolescent/adult dose (30 mcg). 

Can I ask that a smaller dose be given to my child if they are smaller for their age or a larger dose if they are bigger for their age?   

Ottawa Public Health will be following the vaccine recommendation based on age and not weight in their clinics.  This approach is based on their training and how the companies are saying vaccines should work. The 10 micrograms (mcg) vaccine is approved for use in children aged 5-11 years, compared to the 30-mcg vaccine which is approved for adolescents and adults 12 years of age and older.  

If you have a particular concern about your child, please talk to your family doctor and/or a health practitioner.  

What vaccine should my child get if they are 11 years old for the first dose and they turn 12 when they are eligible for the second dose?  

Your child should get the 10 microgram (mcg) dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine for their first dose then receive the 30-mcg dose of the adolescent/adult vaccine for their second dose when they turn 12.  

According to NACI, children who receive the pediatric formulation of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (10 mcg) for their first dose who turn 12 by the time of their second dose will receive the adolescent/adult formulation of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine (30 mcg) to complete their primary series.   

There is so much information about vaccines. How do I know what is true?
With so much information at your fingertips, it can be challenging to know what to believe. Be it online or in print, make sure the information you are reading is up-to-date, and from a credible source. Talk about the information you have read with a trusted health care provider, like your family doctor or an Ottawa Public Health nurse.
The Canadian Paediatric Society provides some helpful tips to help you evaluate your immunization information.
Vaccine myths

Vaccine confidence is an important focus for Ottawa Public Health. Vaccine misinformation is widespread and can be a deterrent to vaccine confidence. We are here to provide trustworthy, science-based information to help you understand why Ottawa Public Health promotes vaccines as an important, reliable and safe way of protecting you and your loved ones from vaccine preventable diseases.

Here are some common myths about COVID-19 vaccines

Can the mRNA vaccine alter a person’s DNA?
No. mRNA is not able to alter or modify a person’s genetic makeup (DNA). The mRNA from a COVID-19 vaccine never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA are kept. This means the mRNA does not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. Instead, COVID-19 vaccines that use mRNA work with the body’s natural defenses to safely develop protection (immunity) to disease.
Can the COVID-19 vaccine cause a COVID-19 infection?

No. None of the COVID-19 vaccines currently approved for use in Canada use the live virus that causes COVID-19. There are several different types of vaccines in development. The goal of each of the vaccines is to teach the immune system how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. Sometimes this process can cause symptoms, such as fever. These symptoms are normal and are a sign of the immune response to vaccine.

It usually takes the body a few weeks to build immunity after receiving a vaccine. It is possible that someone could become infected with the COVID-19 virus before or just after getting the vaccine and get sick. This happens because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection in the body. Learn more about COVID-19.

How do I know if the vaccine is halal?

Many companies are making vaccines and the COVID-19 vaccines that are approved in Canada are from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Janssen do not contain gelatin or pork products.

Vaccines that may become available later may include gelatin or pork products and as more information becomes available for these, consult with religious leaders about which specific vaccines are recommended. It is important to know there are approved vaccines in Canada that do not contain gelatin or pork products.

Is it true that the COVID-19 vaccines contain elements from a human fetus?

No. Many researchers use what are called ‘cell lines’ to develop vaccines. Cell lines are cultures of human or animal cells that can be grown in a lab for long periods of time. Most cells will eventually stop dividing and die, but some cell lines, called immortal cell lines, never stop dividing. These cell lines are especially useful for vaccine work. The viral-vector vaccines currently approved for use in Canada were produced using cell lines from human embryos that were electively aborted many years ago*. Scientists used these cell lines to grow the harmless virus needed to create an immune response against COVID-19. Cell lines from elective abortions are called fetal cell lines. Fetal cell lines have been used in medicine for years. Many of the vaccines that are widely used today were developed using fetal cell lines. These include some of the vaccines used to prevent rubella, hepatitis A and chickenpox. Although human cell cultures may have been used in the process of developing these vaccines, the vaccines do not contain any human cells or tissue.

Each of the COVID-19 vaccines being used in Canada have been approved and are safe and effective.

*The viral vector vaccines (AstraZeneca and Janssen) used fetal cell lines in the production of the final vaccine product. The mRNA vaccines (Pfizer and Moderna), used fetal cell lines in the research phase but not in the production:

  • AstraZeneca uses the HEK-293 cell line for the development, testing and production of the vaccine.
  • Janssen (J&J) uses PER.c6 cell line for the development, testing and production of the vaccine. This cell line was developed from retinal cells of an 18-week-old fetus aborted in 1985.
  • Pfizer was developed using genetic sequencing on computers without fetal cells. The HEK-293 abortion-related cell line was used in research related to the vaccine. It was not used for testing or the ongoing production.
  • Moderna does not need aborted fetal cell lines for production. But, aborted fetal cell line was used in both development and testing in the initial stage.

Can someone who has been vaccinated ‘shed the virus’ and put others at risk?

No. Viral shedding occurs after an individual gets infected by a viable (living) virus.

Vaccinated people do not shed any virus because the vaccines do not contain whole, living viruses. The vaccines also do not cause whole viruses to be created. The current vaccines approved for use in Canada do not contain live SARS-CoV-2 virus.

There are two classes of approved COVID-19 vaccines in Canada: mRNA vaccines, and viral vector-based vaccines.

mRNA vaccines

Both mRNA vaccines approved for use in Canada (Pfizer and Moderna) use synthetic mRNA. Synthetic mRNA is made to contain instructions for the spike protein found on the coronavirus. Once given to someone, the mRNA is delivered to the vaccinated person’s cells. The cell uses this to make copies of this spike protein, not whole viruses, which allow the body’s immune system to recognize and fight the coronavirus.

Viral vector-based vaccines

The COVID-19 viral vector-based vaccines (AstraZeneca and Janssen) use a harmless, weakened adenovirus as a vector (a shell). When the vaccine is made, DNA coding for the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is put into this adenoviral vector (or shell). The vector acts as a delivery system to bring the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein code to human cells. The vector (not SARS-CoV-2) will enter a cell in the body to deliver the instructions.  Then the instructions from inside the vector use the cell’s machinery to produce the spike protein and bring it to the surface of the cell. A vaccinated person’s immune system will recognize that the protein doesn’t belong there and train the body’s immune system to attack the coronavirus in the future. However, the spike protein doesn’t infect the recipient with SARS-CoV-2. It cannot cause the infection because it is not a whole virus.

Both mRNA COVID-19 and viral vector-based vaccines cannot cause infection with SARS-CoV-2, and therefore cannot cause viral shedding of SARS-CoV-2.

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