More than 120,000 doses of the paediatric Pfizer vaccine have been delivered to 500 vaccination sites around New Zealand as health providers prepare to begin immunising 5 to 11-year-olds from today.
The COVID-19 vaccine used for tamariki has a lower dose and smaller volume than the adult vaccine and is administered using a smaller needle, the Ministry of Health said in a statement this morning. To be fully immunised against COVID-19 a child needs to get two doses of the vaccine, usually given at least eight weeks apart, it said.
Auckland’s COVID-19 vaccination programme clinical director, Dr Anthony Jordan says communities in Tamaki Makaurau were well prepared.
“We’re looking forward to welcoming families along to our vaccination centres, and will have activities available to help make children feel more comfortable and keep them busy, like word finders, colouring in, stickers and certificates. All our staff have been specially trained in childhood immunisations and are ready to answer any questions from parents or kids,” he said.
“Getting vaccinated now is a great way to help protect tamariki before they go back to school. The evidence shows that while children may have milder symptoms, some will still get very sick and end up in hospital if they do get COVID-19. Getting vaccinated also helps to prevent them from passing it on to more vulnerable members of the whānau, like babies and elderly family members.
“If parents are due for their boosters, they can get them done at the same time to help provide reassurance.”
He said the child Pfizer vaccine is available at 500 sites throughout New Zealand, including walk-ins, drive-throughs, hauora providers, community pharmacies, and general practices, with the number of centres set to increase over the coming weeks.
Starship Paediatric Consultant, Dr Jin Russell, has been involved in providing independent expert advice on protecting children from Covid-19 to the Ministry.
“We now have real-world safety data from over eight million doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered to children aged 5–11 years in the United States. I have confidence the Pfizer vaccine is very safe for children.”
Dr Russell has advice for parents and caregivers on preparing their child for vaccination.
“The best thing a parent can do to prepare their children to be immunised is to talk to them about what is going to happen.”
“Tell them there will be a small needle and that they will feel a sharp scratch or sting briefly but then it will be over. They may have a sore arm, fever, headache or feel tired afterwards.
“A key thing is to tell them why they are going to be vaccinated. I say to my boys, you are going to be vaccinated to protect yourself against COVID-19, and to protect our family, your grandparents, our community, and other kids at school who may be more at risk from COVID-19 if they catch it.
“It is also important that as a parent you stay calm and reassuring as children take their emotional cues from parents and caregivers. If you can, make a plan to do something fun afterwards so they have something to look forward to,” advised Dr Russell.
To find out which centres are offering the child Pfizer vaccine this week visit the Unite Against COVID-19 website. Parents and caregivers can book online at BookMyVaccine.nz or make a whānau booking by calling the Covid Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26. Many general practices are also offering child vaccinations for their enrolled patients – contact your local doctor to find out more.