Protecting our Children from Covid-19 Zoom Fono

On Friday the 14th of January 2022, we were fortunate to work in partnership with the Ministry of Pacific Peoples to deliver a National Zoom Fono about how to protect our children from Covid-19.

 

It was a great evening of talanoa with our very own Dr Teuila Percival who facilitated the fono and panellists: Dr. Meia Schmidt-Uili, Dr Florina Chan-Mow, Dr Simone Watkins, Dr Natalie Netzler, Chris Puli’uvea, Karl Anthony Vasau and Gerardine Clifford-Lidstone for sharing their insights, experiences and advice. The rich talanoa provided key messages on immunisations being the best way to protect our children which requires everyone to work together.

 

A big thank you to all the parents, caregivers and families who joined the fono.  We hope you were able to take some key information away for your children.

 

As of the 17th of January 2022, children between the ages of 5-11 years old are now eligible to get vaccinated against Covid-19. The Covid-19 vaccination used for children has a lower dose and a smaller volume than adults and is administered using a smaller needle. To be fully immunised against Covid-19, children need to receive two doses of the vaccine usually 8 weeks apart.

 

For information about COVID-19 vaccinations for children head to this link: https://covid19.govt.nz/…/covid-19-vaccination-and….

 

To view the recorded zoom fono click here. 

Questions and Answers:

“Protecting our Children from Covid-19” Fono (Friday 14 January 2022)

                                       Covid-19 and Vaccine safety.
How do we know if our children may be predisposed to myocarditis? Is the 15 minute stand enough of a check to dismiss or is there a time period to stay alert?

Dr Meia Schmidt-Uili: 15 minutes is at least enough time to watch out for any immediate adverse effects in your child.

Dr Simone-Watkins : No child is specifically predisposed but a child is more likely to develop myocarditis from COVID infection then from the vaccine. I would not dismiss any symptoms you notice or that your child complains of – it is always better to call Healthline / get it checked by a GP because even if not side effect of vaccine it is good to be sure a professional checks out your child. This would also give you peace of mind.

Dr Natalie Netzler:

There is a much higher risk for developing myocarditis from catching the virus rather than the vaccine. Myocarditis risk after vaccination is highest in young men (aged 12-49) and the risk for this age group is between 5 and 6 people per 100,000 vaccinated (source: Husby et al., 2021). The 15 minute window is not for monitoring for myocarditis but rather any acute anaphylactic allergy to the vaccine, would show up within that short timeframe.

Myocarditis is a very rare adverse effect that can happen within 28 days of vaccination, usually between 4 days and 2 weeks after, so we should monitor for chest pain, shortness of breath with a pounding or fluttering heart during this time and seek medical attention if you have these symptoms at any time, including after infections or vaccination. Usually, these rare cases after vaccination are very mild and get better with care and rest.

I have a question regarding my son as I believe he’s in the high risk category. He is prone to having seizures having had a brain infection/inflammation at 8 weeks old. Will the vaccine possibly cause any other side effects for him or the use of his current anti-seizure medication (levetiracetam).

Dr Simone-Watkins: This would not affect his medication. He needs to continue the use of his regular medicines. He is safest being vaccinated in my opinion.

Dr Meia Schmidt-Uili: You’re right that your son’s medical condition places him at high risk of getting a severely sick, if he were to catch COVID. There is no evidence that people with epilepsy are at higher risk of side effects from the vaccine. As with any vaccine, the child may have a fever which may or may not bring on a seizure, among those who usually have seizures with fever. This is only short term.  We know from studies that vaccination does not cause worsening of epilepsy, or brain injury.

The vaccine is safe for him to have and would not affect his medicine.  He should continue using his usual  medicines.

As a father of a 4 year old turning 5 in 2 weeks. I am going to have her receive her vaccination but I am worried around the side effects on someone so young. What side effects are known for children 5 years especially so I can be prepared and not panic as we watch her and care for our daughter after she gets her 1st shot. – From Wesley

Dr Natalie Netzler: I understand completely, I have a four year old girl too. What we can take comfort from is the fact that millions of 5-11 year olds have been safely vaccinated with Pfizer now worldwide and the risks of adverse effects are very low. The risks of severe effects from the virus that causes COVID are around 3% in kids, with a risk of kids developing long-term symptoms at around 11-15% after catching the virus, while the risk of a severe effect (such as fever, fainting etc) after the Pfizer vaccine is only 0.001%. There have been no deaths from the Pfizer kids’ vaccine, so your child is much safer getting the vaccine than the virus.

Dr Simone-Watkins: Hi Wesley, my 5-year-old has had his vaccination and said it didn’t hurt him and he didn’t notice any side effects, other kids I know have had a sore arm and needed some Pamol (paracetamol) but I believe the best thing is to act calm for her, be honest and give her praise for being brave. The vaccination is quick and the kids have been receiving a fun activity pack and certificate for bravery afterwards.

Dr Meia Schmidt-Uili: Side effects are like those of older children, and adults. A sore arm, sometimes feeling tired, mild fever, some aches. They are short term.

All my children have food allergies (mainly dairy, gluten and some environmental). Have children with food allergies reacted differently to the vaccine?

Dr Natalie Netzler: The Pfizer vaccine has been shown in many studies and real-world data (tracking many millions of people after the vaccine) to be safe for everyone with food allergies. If you are still worried, please tell the vaccinator and they can keep you there for a little longer (any severe allergy will show up within 15 mins). The only allergy to be aware of before Pfizer vaccination is one to PEG, which is in many cosmetics, medicines and food so you would know if your child had this allergy as they would have been exposed already. If you or your child has a PEG allergy, you should talk with your GP or paediatrician before vaccination.

Dr Meia Schmidt-Uili: The COVID-19 vaccine (Pfizer) is safe for people with allergies. Also there is no food in the COVID19 vaccine.

Can children who have previously had Kawasaki disease safety have the Pfizer vaccine or not please?

Dr Simone Watkins: Yes as far as I am aware.

Dr Natalie Netzler: The current clinical advice is that the Pfizer vaccine is still recommended for those that have had Kawasaki disease and there is no known reason to expect that someone who had Kawasaki disease would experience any problems with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr Meia Schmidt-Uili: Yes – if  your child has recovered and is not on any medicine for it now,  they should be offered the vaccine.

Consent
For 5yrs and 11yrs old do they need a Consent form from the parents to allow to be immunise?Dr Simone Watkins: No written consent was required when I took my son but they verbally checked and it was clear I was the mother (primary caregiver). If another family member / friend takes a child consent over the phone would be usually expected.
Support for Children and Parents
Is there any research looking at children’s opinions/perspectives of the vaccine?

Dr Simone Watkins: Not that I am aware of but I think this is a good idea. My experience is that my 5-year-old and other children are proud of themselves for being brave and have a basic understanding of why they are having it done. My son showed all his class mates his plaster!

Dr Natalie Netzler: While there are numerous global studies looking at adults’ attitudes to vaccination, there are fewer looking at children’s attitudes/perspectives, but they do exist. One example is a large study from all across the UK that found that the attitudes of children were highly linked to their parents’ attitudes and that vaccine hesitancy in youth were highly associated with coming from poorer homes/areas, more time on social media etc. where exposure to misinformation and disinformation is higher (source: Fazel et al., 2021).

Are there conversations to provide vaccinations for those under 5?

Dr Natalie Netzler: Yes, Pfizer is currently running clinical trials for those aged 6 months to 4 years old using 1/10th of the adult dose. So far, the results are that it is safe for all ages in this group, but only the babies up to two years were well protected after two doses, so the trial is ongoing, testing a third dose for the 3-4 year olds to ensure that gives them protection too. The results are expected soon, and if they are also safe and effective then this will be available for rollout here soon too.

Karl Anthony Vasau: The best people to speak with are your own family Doctor, schools public health nurse, Senior members of your family or community (church minister, head of the family etc). The more information and facts you have as a parent on the vaccine the better choices you will make.

I know that we want all our tamariki to be vaccinated but how do we support those

who may not want to be or cannot be vaccinated?

Dr Natalie Netzler: Vaccination adds another layer of protection for our tamariki. For those that cannot (or will not) be vaccinated then we can use other layers of protection such as: encourage them to wear a mask if they are old enough (8 years and above), practice good hand-washing, keep them home when unwell or if their close friends/contacts are unwell, encourage everyone around them to be vaccinated, and keep your distance from others that are not within your bubble outside the home.

Dr Meia Schmidt-Uili: For children and adults – Talk calmly, openly and honestly about the vaccine, safety, effectiveness, and side effects, and other concerns they may have. If you are going to be vaccinated, take them with you so they can see you have it. Listen and be respectful and kind all the time.

Karl Anthony Vasau: Regardless of vaccination status students are welcome to attend schools and schools will always keep all students safe. Talanoa with your school leaders if you feel anxious or concerned about this and they will reassure you. The more information and fact you have as a parent on the vaccine the better choices you will make.

The concern is when parents who are not vaccinated where would that leave our tamariki if they are denied the vax?

Dr Meia Schmidt-Uili: Still important to be respectful to the parents/caregivers wishes, as they will have personal reasons for their decisions. While a large number of our children may have no or mild symptoms, it is of the utmost importance that they (children) are not discriminated against by others.

Karl Anthony Vasau: Children whose parents consent will always be given the vaccine. Regardless of vaccination status students are welcome to attend schools and schools will always keep all students safe.

Logistics for vaccination drives
where & when can we find paediatric drive-through vaccination sites? Can parents also get their booster vaccinations at the same time with their kids?Karl Anthony Vasau: Your local Marae is a good start and more information from your local DHB website on sites.
Can children who have previously had Kawasaki disease safety have the Pfizer vaccine or not please?

Dr Natalie Netzler: The current clinical advice is that the Pfizer vaccine is still recommended for those that have had Kawasaki disease and there is no known reason to expect that someone who had Kawasaki disease would experience any problems with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Dr Meia Schmidt-Uili: Yes – if  your child has recovered and is not on any medicine for it now,  they should be offered the vaccine.

Covid-19, Vaccinations and Schools
Will schools play a role in the role out of the vaccinations? Is there conversations with Principal Assoc and other education bodies to support the vaccinations of children – ie hold pop vaccination clinics at schools?Karl Anthony Vasau: Schools have been asked in certain areas if they would like to host drop in centres and if they have been confirmed they will let their communities know.
What supports or resources are primary schools receiving to protect school environment e.g. we talked about parental/caregiver and child responsibility, what about school staff and facilities support to provide support for children with regard to vaccinations.Karl Anthony Vasau: Schools are supported by the MoH and MoE in relation to safety expectations and requirements. Schools will also rely on their experiences and learnings from the previous lockdowns where schools did a fantastic job welcoming students back in safe environments. All staff and workers on site when students are present need to be fully vaccinated and wearing masks.
Why isn’t there a school to school vaccination campaign? We know that parents have multiple challenges of access, isn’t it most impactful going to where the children are? Is there an expectation that we will be at home again and not school? Samoa had incredible results doing the same, indeed we have to targeted. I’m very disappointed and unsure why not this approach?

Karl Anthony Vasau: For a long time schools have run very effective vaccination programmes in relation to things like measles and meningitis etc.

Schools are set up with Public Health Nurses and the infrastructure that if the need arose we are prepared to run and host these on site.