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Pfizer jabs for 5-11s start this morning - here's all you need to know

By Peter Holmes


"Do not rush or attempt to force children to be vaccinated, this is likely to result in failure to vaccinate." Stock image.

There will be plenty of tears today as vaccinations become available for children aged five to 11.


The Australian government accepted recommendations from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) on vaccinating children late in 2021.


"The TGA’s provisional approval was based on a careful evaluation of available data to support its safety and efficacy among this age group," the Department of Health said.

The department said research shows the Pfizer vaccine is up to 91 percent effective in children.

"Parents, carers and guardians can be reassured that by vaccinating their children against COVID-19 they have done everything possible to keep their child safe from this virus," the department stated.

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Children will receive two dose of the vaccine, eight weeks apart.


The children’s dose is one third of the dose for people aged 12 years and over.


In certain circumstances, the second dose can be brought forward to 3 weeks after the first dose, including:

  • in an outbreak response

  • prior to the initiation of significant immunosuppression

  • before international travel.


Children will be able to receive vaccinations through GPs, state and territory-run clinics, pharmacies, Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services and Commonwealth Vaccination Centres.

You can find a local vaccine provider and book in for an appointment using the Vaccine Clinic Finder.


"If unable to find a suitable appointment, please check back regularly as more appointments will become available," the department stated.


At a press conference on Tuesday NSW Health said 63,000 bookings for 5-11 year olds had already been made at NSW vaccine health clinics.


Who is eligible?


All children aged 5 – 11 are eligible for vaccination.


Some children have an increased risk from COVID-19. They include:

  • children aged 5-11 years with underlying conditions

  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children

  • children living in crowded conditions or outbreak areas.

Children aged 5-11 years who have previously had COVID-19 can receive the vaccine once they have recovered from their illness.


A child receiving an injection. Stock image.

Consent


For people aged 5 – 11, consent is required from a parent or guardian at booking and at the appointment.


If the parent or guardian is unable to attend the appointment, a nominated accompanying adult can be identified during the booking process.


See the Consent for COVID-19 Vaccination for further information.


The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance said the Pfizer vaccine trial included 2,268 children aged 5-11.

Of these children, 1,517 were given two doses of 10 microgram vaccine three weeks apart, and 751 who were given a placebo.


The results found the vaccine was safe and had good efficacy.


"Children given the vaccine had similar antibody levels after the second dose to older adolescents and young adults (aged 16-25)," the centre said.


"This indicates their immune system was able to recognise the lower amount of vaccine mRNA – the vital ingredient in the Pfizer vaccine – and still produce a good amount of antibody to protect against the virus."


There were no serious reactions in this trial, however the sample size wasn’t large enough to detect rare adverse events.


The most common side effects occurred in the first two to three days and included:

  • painful arm (around 70% at any time in the first week after vaccination but usually in the first few days)

  • headache (around 25%)

  • tiredness (around 35%).

Needle phobia


"Effective preparation, distraction techniques, pain management strategies and addressing the core reason for the phobia are all important steps in ensuring successful immunisation," stated the Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre in its advice to medical professionals when vaccinating children, adolescents and people with autism spectrum disorder.


Further advice included:

  • encourage parents not to over discuss the vaccine/needle with the children prior to arrival as this can build up their fear

  • have a plan in place with the parents prior to their arrival at the clinic (in known phobic children)

  • carry out pre-immunisation checks and side effect explanation with parents when the child is out of the room or prior to arrival

  • minimise discussions in front of the child as this can increase distress

  • an individualised approach is more likely to lead to success

  • do not rush or attempt to force children to be vaccinated, this is likely to result in failure to vaccinate

  • take you time with clearly distressed patients, calmly talk them through the procedure and tips to manage their anxiety (deep breathing, looking away or counting).


People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD)


The following strategies may assist in managing needle phobia in individuals with ASD:

  • discuss the individual’s communication style and capabilities with their parent/carer

  • explain everything you are going to do using clear, simple language

  • involve the individual as much as possible by considering their likes/dislikes

  • provide support and positive reassurance

  • remove distracting/disturbing stimuli

  • try not to stop stimming behaviours (eg. rocking, flapping) that may help the individual deal with distress

  • do not attempt to restrain the individual

  • older individuals with ASD can be very difficult to immunise due to significant needle phobias. Restraining these children can result in injury to the carer, child or health care provider

  • have a low threshold to refer to a specialist immunisation provider for sedation.



Bubbles can be a good distraction. Stock image.

Distraction techniques

Young children or the intellectually disabled:

  • bubbles upon entering the room and before and after needle

  • musical toys

  • if able have one person blowing bubbles or creating noise with toy intermittently to maintain attention of child

  • TV on with kids shows

  • child watching their favourite show on parents’ phone.

Older children, adolescents or adults:

  • phone/iPad with headphones watching their favourite show or music (give them time to settle into watching it)

  • make conversation eg. sport, upcoming holidays

  • countdown so they know when to be ready

  • strongly encourage them to look away.

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