Parents and caregivers have the opportunity to protect their tamariki aged 5 to 11 against COVID-19, by being immunised with a child (paediatric) formulation of the Pfizer vaccine.
The vaccine used for tamariki is a children’s version of the Pfizer vaccine, with a lower dose and smaller volume.
Tamariki need two doses of the vaccine to be fully protected, we recommend these are at least 8 weeks apart. The interval can be shortened to a minimum of 21 days if needed, for example if your child is starting treatment with immunosuppressants.
The Ministry of Health recommends immunising your child to keep them safe and to help protect your whānau and community from COVID-19.
Benefits of immunisation
Immunisation is an important way we keep tamariki safe, like being sun smart or wearing a seatbelt. It protects your tamariki from many serious diseases and stops disease spreading within your whānau and the community. In Aotearoa, children get free vaccinations against 12 diseases, including whooping cough (pertussis), measles and polio.
Benefits of immunisation against COVID-19
Immunising 5 to 11-year-old tamariki helps protect whānau members whose health makes them more vulnerable to 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. Like adults, if your tamariki are infected with the COVID-19 virus they may transmit the virus to other people.
Safety of the Pfizer vaccine
The Pfizer vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds has been through clinical trials with children in this age group. In general, the side effects that were reported were mild, didn’t last long, and were similar to side effects from other routine vaccines.
The vaccine is recommended for tamariki with food allergies. Unlike some other vaccines, there is no food, gelatin or latex in the Pfizer vaccine.
The only reason that someone may not be able to have this vaccine due to allergy is if they have had a severe allergic response (anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of the Pfizer vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine. The child (paediatric) Pfizer vaccine has gone through the same rigorous approval process as other routine childhood vaccines. No clinical trials were skipped and no corners were cut in the testing of its safety.
Preparing your tamariki for vaccination
- Provide encouragement to help your tamariki feel relaxed
- Make sure they have had something to eat and drink
- Check they’re wearing clothes that make it easy to see and access their upper arm.
If they’re a little nervous, they’re welcome to take something to the appointment that will distract them, like a soft toy or phone.
If your tamariki have had previous reactions to immunisations, let your vaccinator know, speak to your whānau doctor prior to the appointment, or talk to a trained advisor on the COVID Vaccination Healthline – 0800 28 29 26.
A parent, caregiver or legal guardian will need to accompany your child to their appointment(s) as the responsible adult and provide consent for them to be immunised.
At the appointment both the adult and child can ask as many questions as they like.
As with any immunisation, your child is likely to have a sore arm and get redness, pain or swelling at the injection site. Other reactions that can occur, usually within one or two days, include:
- a fever (feeling hot)
- nausea (feeling sick), vomiting, diarrhoea
- general discomfort (feeling unwell, aches and pains).
These are common and show that the vaccine is working. Encouraging rest and offering plenty of fluids will help.
Severe reactions to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are very rare and usually occur within a few minutes of the vaccination. For this reason you and your child will be put in an observation area for monitoring by clinical staff to ensure they receive any medical treatment if this occurs.
Signs of severe allergic reaction can include:
- difficulty breathing
- swelling of the face and throat
- a fast heartbeat
- a bad rash all over the body
- dizziness and weakness
If you notice your child experiencing any of these symptoms let clinical staff know immediately. If you are not at a vaccination site call 111.
Myocarditis and pericarditis are very rare but serious side effects of the Pfizer vaccine. In the clinical trials no cases were seen in children aged 5 to 11 years old, however it is important to be aware of the symptoms for all ages who are vaccinated. If your child has any of the following symptoms in the days or weeks after being vaccinated, get medical help right away.
Symptoms of myocarditis and pericarditis:
- discomfort, heaviness, tightness or pain in their chest
- difficulty breathing
- feelings of having a fast-beating, fluttering, or pounding heart
- feeling faint, light-headed or dizzy
Book or walk in
COVID-19 immunisations are free for everyone. From 17 January, parents or caregivers can go to a walk-in clinic with their tamariki or use BookMyVaccine.nz to get immunised with their usual health provider, hauora, or general practice (make sure you select the appropriate age range).
If you want to book for more than one child or you’re unable to book online, you can call the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week) and we’ll make the booking for you and answer any questions. Interpreters are available.
Tamariki with disabilities
The disability team is available Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm. They will support your whānau and can book an immunisation appointment for you. They can answer any questions you may have about your child’s needs including accessibility, free transport options, or any affects the vaccine may have on your child.
Have questions about the vaccine? Talk to a trained advisor on the COVID Vaccination Healthline – 0800 28 29 26 – between 8am–8pm, 7 days a week.