COVID and why vaccinate children

Family Health Diary

The usual back to school flurry includes getting clothes and books ready and finding the lunch box. This year there is also the consideration of masks and COVID vaccines for children.

I know some parents wonder if they need to vaccinate their children as they have heard that children do not get as sick with COVID as adults do. This is true but getting COVID can be serious for some children including children who have immune issues, diabetes or respiratory conditions like asthma. Getting children vaccinated protects them and their classmates. It also helps to protect our koroua and older people.

Children more easily pass infections from one to another due to playing closely together and often sharing toys, holding hands and so on. Young children will need to learn good personal hygiene of regular handwashing, sneezing into their elbow and not touching their faces. As parents we need to remember to keep children home from school if there is any suggestion of an infection. Being vaccinated against COVID and other diseases is an added level of protection for our children.

Because children often get a mild dose of COVID they are more likely to have no symptoms. This means they can spread COVID easily including to their grandparents and other vulnerable people without anyone knowing the child has COVID. Vaccination is a way to reduce this spread and protect the vulnerable, young and old. This can help reduce risk for extended whanau and households where there are people who are at higher risk from COVID-19 disease.

Government agreed to use of the child version of the Pfizer vaccine to protect 5 to 11-years-olds after receiving advice that it is safe and effective. This same vaccine is being used in many other countries. By 14 December 2021, more than 5.4 million children in the United States had received the first dose of the vaccine, and 1.5 million, their second dose. Most tamariki from 5 to 11 years of age can be vaccinated. This vaccine has been shown to be 91% effective at preventing any symptoms of COVID infection.

It is good to prepare your child before they go for a vaccine:

  • Let them know they are being brave and are helping protect other people as well as themselves.
  • It is normal for children (and adults) to feel nervous. Suggest the child takes a favourite toy or headphones to listen to music or a game to play depending on their age.
  • The actual vaccination is very quick. For most people it feels like a quick pinch.
  • When going for a vaccine, make sure to wear clothes that allow the top of the arm easy to get at.
  • If you as the parent have concerns about the vaccine, it is best to discuss these first with your GP or the vaccinator. That way you can be happy with your decision before coming with your child for the vaccine.
  • Most side effects are mild and go away within a few days. It is usual to get a sore arm afterwards and some people feel tired for a day or two. A few people also get a headache, muscle aches or chills.

Some people give their children paracetamol before or straight after the vaccine so they feel less pain in their arm, and less likely to get a headache or muscle aches. If you or your child feels anything that seems worse than the mild side effects listed please get advice from a doctor.

We know we have Omicron in the country. We do not know if this is the last variant we will be getting. So if you have any questions about vaccinating your child please talk to your doctor about risks and benefits so they can be protected.

Written by Linda Caddick

This blog provides general information and discussion about medicine, health and related subjects. The information contained in the blog and in any linked mate­ri­als, are not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

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