3 Feb 22
“There is an assumption that Covid is mild and nothing to worry about in children; that is not a valid assumption. You can expect that if children get Covid, just under 2% will need to go to hospital for oxygen or IV fluids.
They would come into hospital with complications on their lungs. With Omicron, they will have difficulty breathing due to swelling of their upper airway, so it’s not a completely benign illness.”
Dr Percival stresses that children with underlying conditions, including neurological disabilities are most at risk if they are infected with Covid-19.
“If they’ve had pneumonia in the past, if they have moderate asthma, diabetes or obesity, all of these conditions put them at increased risk of a more serious Covid illness.
We need to protect these children as it is a virus that does not hit everyone the same. For some, it will be more severe and some will end up in hospital. We have a vaccine which is safe and it is an option I encourage parents to consider.”
Dr Percival reinforces the safety of the vaccine for children, with good evidence from recent trials in the United States.
“They did the initial trials on about 3000 children and it had a very good safety profile in the vaccine Pfizer trials. Since the vaccine was approved for use in America, they’ve been vaccinating their 5- to 11-year-olds and have given almost 9 million doses out to children there.
What it showed us is that serious side effects are very rare in children so it is a really safe vaccine, certainly as safe as the others that we give out to children for things such as diphtheria, tetanus and the flu.”
Dr Percival says it is important to note that the dose in a child’s vaccine is different to the adults. The vaccine uses the same MRNA technology, however in the childrens’ vaccine they are receiving a third of the adult dose.
She reassures families that vaccinators are trained to ensure that the duty of care to children is approached with the highest standards of empathy and safety.
“All our vaccinators will have done a refresher on how to engage with children and how to vaccinate them. First thing to note is that no child gets vaccinated unless you have the full informed consent of a parent or guardian. That is one of the important differences between a child and an adult getting vaccinated.
The other difference is the approach to children. We have to be more patient and engage differently with children. It is important we talk them through the process.
For a lot of kids, they will understand if you let them know being vaccinated will help protect them and their family from getting really sick.”
She says children will likely experience similar side effects to adults such as feeling tired, having a sore arm or having a headache. Her advice to parents is to make sure their child drinks plenty of water, takes some panadol and gets some rest.
You can book for a child in your family to be vaccinated through the Book My Vaccine website. You can also take them to a walk-in or drive through site.
If you are unable to book online, you can ring the COVID vaccination healthline on 0800 28 29 26.
Date: Thursday 03 February 2022