On Tuesday 2 November, we held our Covid-19 and Child Wellbeing fono hosted by Dr Teuila Percival. The purpose of this fono was to talanoa with our communities on the impacts that the Covid-19 pandemic might be having on our younger children and discuss possible solutions.
There were over 200 attendees, highlighting the desire and need for more information and reassurances for our caregivers of younger children.
Topics discussed included how Covid-19 affects children, the current research and evidence around vaccinating young children, the psychological effects that Covid-19 might be having on our children and what caregivers, families and our schools can do to help our young children.
Our Panelists come from different areas involved in the Wellbeing of Children such as health, behavior, education and also in the Covid-19 front-line:
- Dr Siautu Alefaio-Tuiga (Psychologist)
- Fonoifafo McFarland- Seumanu (Public Health Nurse)
- Dr Natalie Netzler (Virologist)
- Chris Puli’uvea (Immunologist)
- Karl Vasau (Principal of Rowandale school)
Due to limited time, we could not answer all the questions posted in the chat – however, we have listed them here with answers provided from our panelists.
Questions and Answers from the Covid-19 and Child wellbeing Fono
Questions about Covid-19 and vaccine safety
Question for the medical experts: Recently I have come across strong views suggesting simple natural immunity / natural remedies to combat COVOID 19 in oppose to the vaccinations – Do you have any thoughts / guidance in regard to views like these?
Natalie: We have seen that natural immunity does not last as long as double vaccination and is actually only about as strong as one Pfizer shot. Reinfection is well documented when someone has had COVID then catches the virus again later, as our immunity forgets coronaviruses quite quickly and immunity is not long-lasting, also immunity from once variant may not protect you against all variants. While natural remedies may help with symptoms, they will not cure you, many studies have shown this. In addition, you risk getting long-COVID with infection, which the vaccine protects you against.
Chris: Long COVID is becoming a serious issue that significantly impacts quality of life symptoms such as breathing problems, aches and pains and multi-organ damage.
Any chance of getting a copy of the power point slides by email please!
Natalie: We are not allowed to share the actual slides as per request from our employers (it has their endorsement on it as it is, and once we sent it out we no longer have control of its content), however we have similar slides summarised in several languages below for wide distribution, and I understand the session was recorded, so could perhaps be watched again if that helps.
Is the 1 in 20 statistics for kids with autoimmune conditions a high enough risk for parents to justify keeping our kids (with an autoimmune condition) home?
Natalie: I need a bit more information to be able to respond properly, for example, are the kids over 12 and can they be vaccinated? If they are both over 12 then I would highly recommend vaccination to protect them and then the risk is significantly reduced, or if 5-11, then the vaccine will be available next year and that’s the best way to protect them from COVID. While autoimmune conditions can make people much more susceptible to COVID, it depends on what the autoimmune condition is, as there are different statistics for different conditions. If they are older kids then they can be taught the importance of personal hygiene, social distancing and mask wearing, whereas if they are little, this is hard to grasp and unrealistic. As I don’t know these details I would recommend going to your doctor for detailed and specific advice.
My 11 year old son asks how long does the vaccine last for in the body.
Natalie: All part of the vaccine break down in your body within a day or two and the only lasting thing is the immunity your body makes. In terms of long-lasting protection however, the recent studies in adults show that protection against infection from Delta are around 88% within one month of full vaccination and this drops to around 50% against infection at around 6 months post vaccination, however, importantly, protection against serious disease and death remains high for at least 6 months at around 90% protection, so even if you catch it after 6 months of full vaccination you are still protected against getting very sick. More studies are ongoing, but that is why a booster is required. Natural immunity to infection also wanes quickly as our body seems to forget coronaviruses easily compared so other viruses like measles which gives lifelong immunity from the vaccine. The studies on the length of vaccine protection suggested that 12-15 year olds protection might last longer than that for adults, but as these studies are still ongoing this is not known yet. It is likely we will need a booster shot, perhaps every year to keep protection high.
Can you please elaborate on long covid, what are common experiences etc?
Natalie: The most common long term symptoms from Long-COVID are anxiety, depression and breathing and abdominal issues however there are many others recorded such as memory loss, fatigue, breathlessness as just a few examples.
Chris: There are a variety of symptoms that people face so it can be really variable. There are many reports of multi-organ damage.
Hi, for the medical experts is ASD and ADHD an added risk factor for children getting covid?
Natalie: Yes, there is an additional risk to those with ASD and ADHD from developing severe COVID. For ASD it depends on the specifics of the disorder on how affected they are, but generally it has been shown to elevate the risk of severe disease with COVID for both ASD and ADHD in several studies. These increased risks for ASD and ADHD were not necessarily due to the virus, but the fact that most with ASD or ADHD generally found it harder to follow health protection measures for prevention such as social distancing and masking and they also found it harder to communicate symptoms, so it progressed further before detection.
If an unvaccinated person got the covid virus – has their immune system strengthened sufficiently or do they still need to be vaccinated?
Natalie: You still need to be vaccinated to reach full protection as infection only gives about the same protection as one shot of Pfizer and studies show it does not last as long.
Chris: Catching COVID-19 does not guarantee protection against other variants that may arise in future. In addition, serious illness such as COVID-19 can disturb the balance of your immune response making it more easier for you to suffer other diseases such as auto-immunity and cancer, so it could have a negative impact on your immune system.
The tests done in USA – do they include Pasifika people? I am mindful their health system is ‘monetary-based’. Any idea as to the number of Pasifika people in the USA vaccination numbers as a comparison to our people?
Natalie: This was answered in the live session, but yes, Pacific peoples were included in the original clinical trials and had similar responses for safety and efficacy as other ethnic groups. While there were small numbers in the clinical trials, hundreds of thousands of Pacific people have been vaccinated with Pfizer in the US and NZ now there have been no differences reported in safety or effectiveness from the vaccine across the ethnic groups.
Chris: There is also no good reason to suggest that Pacific people would respond very different to vaccinations compared to other ethnic groups that have taken part in these trials.
Does it matter if you get your 2nd dose at 3 weeks, 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 10 weeks or 12 weeks please? There are various thoughts around what length gives better immunity. Thank you so much for tonight; awesome!
Natalie: In terms of protection from the vaccine, anything over three weeks (3-12 weeks) for the second shot is fine, but studies have shown that protection is slightly higher if we wait 6 weeks between the shots. However, we had the luxury of waiting 6 weeks when we didn’t have COVID in the community here, but now it’s here, the risk of getting COVID while waiting that extra three weeks is not worth the small amount of extra protection, so it’s now recommended that we wait only three weeks between shots. However, if you have three weeks as a gap or longer, you are still protected.
What happens to our babies who haven’t completed their early immunisations and when the covid vaccination is available for them?
Natalie: I would encourage parents to ensure their child is up to date on all vaccinations, as well as the COVID vaccination once available.
Siufofoga: The Ministry of Health [MoH] strongly recommends that all babies/ children complete their free-publicly funded national immunisation schedule at the appropriated age group, to minimise the risk of any of these vaccine-preventable, contagious, and life-threatening diseases from spreading.
Vulnerable members of our communities including young babies/children, or those with very weakened immune systems, are at higher risk of becoming severely unwell and being hospitalised, if they are not fully vaccinated and well protected against these infectious diseases [for example: rotavirus, whooping cough/pertussis, or measles]. Furthermore, families living in multi-generational households [i.e., babies and young children living together with older siblings and their parents in homes with close living spaces alongside cousins, aunties, uncles and grandparents], are at a much higher risk of spreading nasty, infectious diseases, affecting the most young and vulnerable members of our families – like our babies and young children. Strong evidence indicates that the best form of protection for our very young and vulnerable is to vaccinate.
For the time being, we will need to await further guidance from the MoH, on when the vaccine will be legally approved to be given in Aotearoa New Zealand to our younger-aged children and babies. This includes when the COVID-19 vaccine can be given safely, alongside the national immunisation schedule.
For further information regarding childhood immunisations, please access: https://www.healthed.govt.nz/resource/childhood-immunisation
Clinical- and Medical- related questions
I have a 10 yo daughter who is diagnosed with type1 diabetes and a 4yo son with an ileostomy bag & both my husband and I are frontline workers and fully vaccinated. Is it safe for us to be at work? Fa’afetai lava
Natalie: This is a decision that needs careful consideration of the risks vs benefits of going to work. Indeed, your kids are more vulnerable to COVID and you are frontline so could be exposed more easily yourselves. I would ensure that you have a full change of clothes and wash your hands thoroughly before entering the house after work and be sure to stick to all the distancing, masking rules etc. while outside the home if you need to keep going to work (as most of us do). Once the vaccine is available for these age groups, I’d strongly recommend getting them vaccinated.
Any expectation when the MOH move to vaccinate 11yr and below.
Natalie: The Pfizer vaccine for the 5-11 year olds has just been approved by the FDA, so I heard the NZ Government is procuring some for 2022 to roll out. I don’t think the MoH know the timing yet.
How do we access the mobile vaccination service for people who are unable to go to vaccination sites e.g. no vehicle or have disabilities.
Siufofoga: There is an outreach service available where home-visits may be required, but subject to meeting certain criteria. Taxi-chits are also provided, in support of those with no transportation.
For further information and guidance, please contact the:
– Pasifika Health Line on 0800211221.
Questions about School and Wellbeing
When our children return to school what is that going to look like in terms of segregation?
Karl: The Ministry of Education and
Health share with schools’ practices and
systems that need to be in place before
opening. Each school then puts
together a plan and then shares this
with their community … there are some
things that need to be done the same
across schools, but some schools can
adapt it to their context … I encourage
you to contact your Childs schools and
seek an answer from the school re your question.
To Karl, does the school board has the right to make a policy that students aged 12 and above should get full vaccinated before going back to school? Isn’t it a violation of children’s right to assess education?
Karl: This in relation to the Public health order and directives from the Ministry of Education. Wearing a mask is part and parcel of life in pretty much all areas of NZ life. In Primary schools it is not mandated but children still have the option to wear one. I know there are instances where you can apply for a mask exemption but I’m not sure on the ins and outs of that. My first action in this would be to ask the student if they feel like this is a violation of their rights rather than what the parent thinks. Always involves a Talanoa with your child’s school or teacher.
Are there any resources that can be accessed or given to parents particularly our pacific parents or techniques or approaches that doctors and teachers can advise to parents to help their childrens wellbeing due to covid and students being at home and not being able to do online learning or go see their friends etc
Karl: this is something that all schools worry about and work really hard to address. Schools allow for pick up or deliveries of home learning packs and resources and the work incorporates students wellbeing. All zooms and connections online with teachers involve an element of wellbeing check ins but this is sadly limited to only those that attend their regular class online sessions. Schools like mine also regularly text and phone parents for check ins and also post and celebrate online using our Facebook and Website. Fuimaono Karl Endemann run a programme called Le Toloa and it focusses on wellbeing of Staff and Parents … we participated in the first trial of this programme and it was so valuable. Always involves a Talanoa with your child’s school or teacher about what this looks like for them.
Talofa lava, Kia Ora koutou, Chris mentioned severe cases more common with children with issues such as obesity, Tell me please why KFC was offered in one of Aklds V centre?
Chris: Obesity is a risk factor yes but obesity is driven by many other factors too such as genetics, not just KFC. Obesity is something that develops over time not over 1 KFC meal at a vaccination event. I think having KFC as treat was very nice as we had many weeks of lockdown without it so having a treat would’ve been appreciated.
The session was recorded, so if you could not attend and is interested please watch the zoom fono below.
Also below are some links that you might find useful related to the health and wellbeing of children: