From January 17 2022, tamariki aged 5–11 years can be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Here are common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine in children.
- Why immunise my child against COVID-19?
- Where can my child get vaccinated?
- How effective is the Pfizer vaccine in children and young adults?
- Will tamariki be given the same dose as adults?
- How many doses will my child need?
- Is the vaccine safe in young people?
- Can my child get the AstraZeneca vaccine?
- Can my child get the booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine?
- Will I be required to give consent for my child to be vaccinated?
- How can I prepare my child for vaccination?
- Can my child have the Pfizer vaccine if they have allergies?
- What about side effects to the vaccine?
The virus can be unpredictable. COVID-19 generally has mild effects in children, with symptoms similar to a cold. But, some children become very sick and need to spend some time in hospital.
In New Zealand's 2021 DELTA outbreak, about 24 in 100 COVID-19 cases have been in children aged 11 or under.
As with adults, if your child is infected with COVID-19, they may pass on the virus to other people. Immunising 5–11 year olds helps protect whānau members whose health makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19. Read more: Protecting your tamariki from COVID-19.
Everyone over the age of 12 can get their first dose now. From 17 January, parents or caregivers of tamariki aged 5 to 11 can:
- Go to a walk-in clinic with their tamariki.
- Book online using 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–8pm, 7 days a week) and they’ll make the booking for you and answer any questions you may have. Interpreters are available.
The Pfizer vaccine is highly effective. This means that if immunised children and young adults do develop COVID-19, they’re far less likely to fall seriously ill and less likely to pass the virus on to others. Clinical trial results showed that for tamariki aged:
- 5–11 years: the Pfizer vaccine was 90.7% effective against getting COVID-19 symptoms, and no participants developed severe COVID-19.
- 12–15 years: the Pfizer was 100% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 infection in this age group. This age group also showed a higher antibody response than was seen in the 16–25 age group.
- 5–11 year olds will not be given the same dose as adults. The vaccine used for tamariki is a children’s version of the Pfizer vaccine, with a lower dose and smaller volume. The lower dose was chosen based on a trial which showed the lower dose was safe and had few side effects in this age group.
- 12–15 year olds are given the same dose of the Pfizer vaccine as adults.
Tamariki need two doses of the vaccine to be fully protected.
- For 5–11 year olds it is recommended that their doses are at least 8 weeks apart. The interval can be shortened to a minimum of 21 days if needed, eg, if your child is starting significant immunosuppression treatment. If your child has their second vaccination after they have turned 12 years, they should still complete their vaccination course with the children’s version of the Pfizer vaccine.
- For 12–15 year olds to be fully protected, they need 2 doses of the vaccine, with a gap of 3 weeks or more between the first and second dose.
The Pfizer vaccine is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. It does not contain any live virus, or dead or deactivated virus, and can't give your child COVID-19 or affect their DNA. Learn more about how the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine works.
Medsafe is responsible for approving the use of all medicines and vaccines in New Zealand. They only approve a vaccine in Aotearoa once they are satisfied it has met strict standards for safety, efficacy and quality. The trials in 5–11 year olds with a paediatric (child) dose of the Pfizer showed the vaccine was safe, and side effects were similar to those observed with the full dose in 12–15 year olds. The side effects were generally mild.
Millions of people in the 12–15 age group have now been vaccinated around the world, and no additional safety concerns have been raised. The Ministry of Health also receives regular advice from science experts in the COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group (CV TAG) which recommends the use of COVID-19 vaccines in different age groups. CV TAG have considered all scientific and technical data in recommending the use of vaccination in these age groups and will continue to monitor safety data from the real-world rollout internationally and in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Children are not eligible for AstraZeneca vaccinations. Only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for use in children. The AstraZeneca vaccine is available for people aged 18 years and over.
Children are not eligible for booster vaccinations. Booster vaccinations can only be given to people aged 18 years or over.
- 5–11 years: 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 vaccinated. At the appointment both the adult and child can ask as many questions as they like.
- 12–15 years: While young people aged 12 and above have the right to give their own consent, it is recommended that they discuss vaccination with their parents, whānau or a trusted support person. A health professional will also discuss the vaccine with them before they get vaccinated and answer any questions they have. If they have a good understanding, they can say yes or no to getting the vaccine. If they’d prefer, a parent or caregiver can provide consent instead. Read more about COVID-19 vaccine informed consent for young people aged 12-15 years.
Learn more: Making the decision and being informed.
It is important to prepare your child for their vaccination. Here are a few ways you can prepare them:
- Explain to your child why they are getting the vaccine using words that the child can understand, eg, “the vaccine will protect you from getting sick and keep you healthy.” Older children may understand the concept of immunity, eg, “it helps your body build immunity to fight off infections.” Most children are pleased to learn, too, that they are doing something good for the community – for their friends and classmates.
- It is not recommended you give pain relievers before vaccination to try to prevent side effects.
- Tell the doctor or nurse about any allergies your child may have.
- Keep your child relaxed and 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 your child is a little nervous, you're welcome to take something to the appointment that will distract them, eg, a soft toy, phone or some music.
Learn more: Ways to talk and to prepare your tamariki.
As with all medicines, there is a risk of an allergic response after this vaccine.
This is why everyone is asked to wait for at least 15 minutes after vaccination so that a health professional can monitor for any immediate adverse reactions.
If your child has a history of an immediate allergic reaction to other products, including food, medicines or other vaccines, they can still have this vaccine but are asked to stay a little longer (at least 30 minutes) for monitoring.
The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is safe for people with food allergies. Unlike some other vaccines, there is no food, gelatin or latex in the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and it is not grown in eggs. 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. Vaccinators are trained to recognise these symptoms and have the appropriate equipment to treat people on site.
The Pfizer vaccine does NOT contain:
- animal products
- blood products
- egg proteins
- foetal material
- pork products
- latex (the vial stopper is made with synthetic rubber – bromobutyl).
Like adults, children and young people may have some side effects after their COVID-19 vaccination. These side effects are generally mild and should only last 1–2 days. The most common side effects are:
- a sore arm from your 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 sick)
- aching muscles.
If your child feels unwell, get them to rest and drink plenty of fluids. They should avoid vigorous exercise, like running around or swimming. Paracetamol can be taken (following instructions on packaging, or as given by your doctor or pharmacist) after vaccination to help to relieve fever or pain. Read more: After your child’s Pfizer vaccination.
The risk of harm to children from COVID-19 infection remains much higher than the risk to them from vaccine side effects.
Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and it can be mild or serious. It is usually caused by viruses, such as COVID-19, but it is also a very rare side effect of the Pfizer vaccine, especially in adolescents and young males. Myocarditis wasn’t identified as a side effect of the Pfizer vaccine in the 5–11 age group in trials, however it is important to be aware of the symptoms for all people who are getting vaccinated.
Symptoms of myocarditis linked to the Pfizer vaccine generally appear within a few days, and mostly within the first week after having the vaccine. If anyone gets these symptoms after vaccination, you should seek medical help, especially if these symptoms don’t go away:
- Tightness, heaviness, discomfort or pain in the chest or neck.
- Difficulty breathing or catching your breath.
- Feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed.
- A fluttering, racing or pounding heart, or feeling like it's ‘skipping beats’.
If the child or young person experiences any of these symptoms in the days or weeks after the vaccine, they should see a doctor. You can also call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 anytime to get advice. If you have an immediate serious concern about their health, call 111, and make sure you tell them they’ve had a COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccine and children – information for parents and caregivers Ministry of Health, NZ
COVID-19 immunisation for 5 to 11 year olds KidsHealth, NZ