Parents and caregivers within the Kiwi-Indian community are urged to be first in the queue when Covid Vaccination for Children aged 5-11 begins on Monday, January 17, to ensure the safety of their children as the global pandemic remains rampant overseas.

Notably, the government has announced the Covid-19 vaccination for children with the child version of the Pfizer vaccine on December 21.

Expectedly, the decision to get their young children vaccinated is an emotional one, especially with the abundant and often confusing information available on the internet, especially from non-verified sources.

Given the significance of the decision for keeping our children and the communities safe amidst this pandemic, the Indian Weekender has collaborated with the Northern Region Health Co-ordination Centre (NRHCC) to get expert views from a seasoned doctor in order to get scientifically backed information and allay any real or perceived concerns.

With eight years’ experience at Counties Manukau Health and previous international experience in Canada, Dr Hari Talreja cares for patients with kidney disease and renal transplantation – which puts them at a higher risk of developing complications from Covid-19. He has been a strong advocate for his patients to get vaccinated and is now encouraging Auckland parents and caregivers to immunise their children aged 5 to 11, who are eligible from January 17, against COVID-19.

He has responded to questions below with the support of the Northern Region Health Co-ordination Centre (NRHCC), which is running Auckland’s vaccination programme.

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Do children receive a smaller dose of the vaccine than adults?

Yes. The child doses of the Pfizer vaccine are smaller than the ones used for people over the age of 12 – a child’s dose is one third of the adult dose.

And how far apart do they receive their two doses?

Currently the recommendation in New Zealand is that the first and second doses are given 8 weeks apart.  ?The?interval can be shortened?to a minimum of 21 days if needed, for example if your child is starting?significant immunosuppression?treatment.

How safe is the vaccine for my child?

For children aged 5 to 11, clinical trial results showed the Pfizer vaccine was 90.7% effective against getting COVID-19 symptoms, and no participants developed severe COVID-19.

In the United States, more than 8 million doses were administered in the 5 to 11 age group from November to December 2021. The national public health agency, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, reports serious adverse reactions were rarely reported. It says parents and caregivers of children in this age group should be advised that local and systemic reactions are expected after receiving the Pfizer vaccine but are more common after the second dose.

What if my child has food allergies?

The vaccine has no increased risk for those tamariki with food, gelatin or latex allergy as these are not contained within the Pfizer vaccine.

When and where can 5-11’s be vaccinated?

From 17 January, parents or caregivers can take their 5 to 11 year olds to their GP or pharmacy to be immunised against COVID-19. Or, they can walk in at any vaccination centre listed here.

A number of our community partners are continuing to set up pop-up vaccination clinics and events at churches, sports clubs and in school communities.

If you want to book for more than 1 child or you are unable to book online, call the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week) and we will make the booking for you and answer any questions. Interpreters are available.

How will the consent process work? And can parents be assured its robust nation-wide?

Children in this age group must have a parent, caregiver or legal guardian accompany them to their appointment and provide verbal consent for them to be vaccinated. At the appointment, both the adult and child can ask as many questions as they like.

What are the side effects for this age group?

Side effects of immunisation in children are similar to those seen in adults. These side effects are generally mild and should only last 1 or 2 days.

The most common side effects are:

  • a sore arm from the injection – you can put a cold cloth or ice pack on it to feel better
  • a headache
  • feeling tired
  • feeling feverish or sweaty
  • nausea (feeling like you need to vomit)
  • aching muscles.

Why is it important that I vaccinate my child?

Immunising 5 to 11-year-old tamariki helps protect them from getting unwell from COVID-19. The COVID-19 virus can be unpredictable. While COVID-19 generally has milder effects in children, with symptoms being similar to a cold, some children become severely ill and require hospitalisation. Tamariki can also have rare complications such as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) that may require intensive care. Tamariki can also suffer long term effects (known as long COVID), even after mild cases of COVID-19.

Will certain ethnic groups be prioritised for the paediatric vaccine rollout?

We have enough doses of the paediatric vaccination to ensure all tamariki can be vaccinated.  Our priority is to ensure an equitable delivery model.  Maori and Pacific people have and will continue to be prioritised in the roll-out, as they’re more likely to get seriously ill from COVID-19. We continue to work with iwi, DHBs, local providers, communities and the Ministry of Education to reach all children in our community.  Some clinics may also offer other childhood immunisations.

Are specially trained vaccinators needed?

Yes, updated training has been provided for paediatric group due to some differences in the drawing up and administration of this vaccine.

What do you say to vaccine hesitant parents? How safe is the vaccine for 5-11s?

The Pfizer vaccine is proven to be highly effective in young people after two doses are administered. That means if they do develop COVID-19, they’re far less likely to fall seriously ill and less likely to transmit the virus to others – including whanau and friends who may be more at risk from COVID-19.

Will children be required to have a My Vaccine Pass to access non-essential services?

Children will not need a My Vaccine Pass and children under 12 can’t get a My Vaccine Pass. There is no requirement (vaccine mandate) for tamariki to be immunised. It is completely up to the parents or caregivers to decide if they want their children immunised. 

Could this age group have AstraZeneca instead of Pfizer?

Medsafe has approved the child version of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged 5-11 years old. The AstraZeneca vaccine is approved only for adults aged 18 and older.

Will this age group need boosters?

Children aged 5-11are not eligible for booster doses. Medsafe has provisionally approved a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine for adults aged 18 and older.

With support from the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre