Q&A: Windsor pediatrician on COVID-19 vaccine for babies and toddlers

·3 min read
Shivani Agarwal, left, sits with her daughter Kiran, three, after getting the Moderna vaccine in New York last month. The vaccine is now available to young children in Ontario.  (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press - image credit)
Shivani Agarwal, left, sits with her daughter Kiran, three, after getting the Moderna vaccine in New York last month. The vaccine is now available to young children in Ontario. (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press - image credit)

COVID-19 vaccine appointments open up today for children between six months to five-years-old, and some parents and caregivers may have questions about the shot.

Health Canada approved Moderna's pediatric shot this month and Ontario's health minister says the vaccine is safe, effective and will help protect children from the virus.

To answer some of the questions you may have about the vaccine, CBC Radio's Windsor Morning host Nav Nanwa spoke with Windsor, Ont. pediatrician Dr. Huma Kazmie.

Still need more information? Scroll down to the bottom of this page for who to contact.

The following has been edited for length and clarity.

Is the vaccine safe? 

Yes. There have been studies done in more than 6,000 babies and children under five-years, and studies are conducted in the U.S. and Canada. Among these 6,000-plus kids, there was not a single case of severe, really severe side effects ... and the vaccine has proven to be safe and effective. And that's why the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) recommended this vaccine.

I think today is the day to celebrate that our younger population also has availability and eligibility for this vaccine.

How many doses are required to be considered fully vaccinated?

So for Moderna ...  it is two-dose and minimum interval should be four weeks, but recommended interval by NACI is eight weeks. This is for normal healthy children, and for the children who are immunocompromised and at high-risk, primary vaccine will be two-dose and interval is same — eight weeks apart.

If my child receives the vaccine, what are the potential side effects? 

So about 50 per cent of kids were a bit irritable and, you know, a bit fatigued for the first two days. Usually side effects appear in the first two days, and they persist only for two, three days.

So common side effects are some fatigue, irritability, local reaction is very common and seen in about one-third of patients, some local redness, swelling, pain. And in about 10 per cent of cases, they may get swelling of the lymph node, nearby area.

Older kids may complain of a bit of headache and body ache and muscle pain.

What if my child has already had COVID-19? Are they already protected? 

No. So vaccine gives additional protection and it increases antibodies. There have been cases of recurrent infection, and once they get a vaccine, it will increase their antibodies three to six-fold, which will be protecting them from the infection.

Once you can control a spread of infection in the community, it will reduce severe disease and all these new variants which are popping up every few weeks. That will reduce disruption, reduce your school and society disruption, which has harmed almost everyone and more so children who were just like isolated in last two years. So those who were born during this time, they are facing many challenges.

Want to know more? 

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit (WECHU) has recommended that parents and caregivers discuss the COVID-19 vaccine with their health-care provider.

"The COVID-19 vaccine is one of the many vaccines that are administered in childhood," WECHU said in a statement. "In this context, the administration should be coordinated with other childhood vaccines."

Pop-up clinics are happening in Windsor-Essex, with more information on hours and locations here.

For more questions about the vaccine, WECHU said parents can also contact the Provincial Vaccine Contact Centre at 1-833-943-3900 if they have questions, or book a confidential phone call with a SickKids registered nurse by visiting COVID-19 Vaccine Consult Service.

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