COVID-19 vaccine: Children aged 5 to 11

Most tamariki aged 5 to 11 are eligible for two paediatric (child) doses of the Pfizer vaccine 8 weeks apart. Some severely immunocompromised children may be eligible for a third child dose. Children are not eligible for a booster.

Last updated: 5 May 2022 

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About the paediatric Pfizer vaccine

Tamariki aged 5 to 11 can be protected against COVID-19 with two paediatric (child) doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least 8 weeks apart. Children are not eligible for AstraZeneca.

Some severely immunocompromised children aged 5 and over may be eligible for a third primary child dose, after consultation with a medical or nurse practitioner.

COVID-19 vaccine: Severely immunocompromised people

The child formulation of the Pfizer vaccine is a lower dose and smaller volume compared to the adult formulation. The vaccine is administered with a smaller needle.

Protecting tamariki aged 5 to 11 from COVID-19 (PDF, 646 KB)

Boosters

Children are not eligible for booster vaccinations. Only ages 16+ can have a booster.

Safety

The trials in 5 to 11-year-olds with a paediatric Pfizer vaccine showed it was safe and side effects were generally mild.

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.

Vaccine effectiveness

The paediatric Pfizer vaccine is highly effective. That means if immunised children do develop COVID-19, they’re far less likely to fall seriously ill and less likely to transmit the virus to others.

For children aged 5 to 11, clinical trial results showed the Pfizer vaccine was 90.7% effective against getting COVID-19 symptoms, and no participants developed severe COVID-19.

Hi, I'm Nano Girl and welcome to my lab.

You may have heard about the COVID-19 vaccine.

But what is it and how does it work?

Viruses are a type of germ that are so tiny you can only seethem with a very powerful microscope.

Some viruses like chickenpox and the flu can make you sick if they get inside your body.

COVID-19 is also a virus that can make you pretty sick, yuck. Viruses make you sick by attacking and taking over healthy cells in your body, turning them into virusmaking factories that make even more virus inside you, yikes.

If you've been sick before you might have taken medicines called antibiotics.

These are really good at fighting against a type of germ called bacteria.

Unfortunately antibiotics don't work on viruses. So we need a different solution.

Vaccines.

Now, vaccines are a type of medicine that you take before you get sick.

They're like a training camp for your body, so it can learn how to fight off viruses before it's even seen one.

So, how do they work?

Well, if you look at a COVID-19 virus super close you'll see it's covered in these tiny bumps that scientists called spike proteins.

They're really not very spiky.

They're more sort of, I reckon blobby.

But anyway, the COVID-19 vaccine contains instructions for making these little proteins, when injected into your arm some of your cells read these instructions and they build spike proteins of their own. Your immune system is your body's germ fighting army and it's made up of special cells that fight off things that invade your body. It recognises these proteins are not meant to be there and it starts making weapons called antibodies to attack them.

This lets your immune system safely train on the spike proteins by testing out all these different types of antibody weapons until it finds the best one to destroy them.

It then remembers this information, so it's ready the next time it sees a spike protein coated germ. That next time might be if you're exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

As soon as that happens your body is now trained to know exactly how to recognise and attack the COVID-19 virus with the perfect antibody weapon, quickly destroying the virus and making it much less likely that you become sick.

So why do we get more than one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine? Well, the first vaccine is the beginner camp where your body learns how to recognise a spike protein and to make great antibody weapons.

The second vaccine is the expert camp where your body gets to use its memory to recognise the spike protein while perfecting it's attack techniques with its newly made antibodies.

The COVID-19 vaccine is designed to help get your immune system in fighting shape, ready to help defend your body and reduce your risk of becoming really sick with COVID-19.

Thanks little vaccines.


Effects of COVID-19 on unvaccinated children

COVID-19 generally has mild effects in children and is rarely severe or fatal.

Children and who have COVID-19 will commonly have no symptoms or only mild respiratory symptoms – similar to a cold. However, some can become very sick and require hospitalisation. Rare complications can include Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) that may require intensive care. Children can also suffer long-term side effects (known as long COVID), even after mild cases of COVID-19.

Like adults, if your tamariki are infected with COVID-19 they may transmit the virus to other people. Immunising tamariki helps protect whānau members whose health makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Long COVID in children

The term ‘long COVID’ (otherwise called post-COVID conditions) is commonly used to describe signs and symptoms that continue or develop after acute COVID-19 (4 weeks from the initial infection).

Symptoms include fatigue, difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as ‘brain fog’), headache, anosmia (loss of smell), and sore throat. Young children may have trouble describing the problems they are experiencing.

Persistent symptoms have been reported following COVID-19, though long COVID is less common in children. Studies have reported long-term symptoms in children with both mild and severe acute COVID-19, including children who previously had Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C).


Hear from experts

I think there's four good reasons why all tamariki should be immunised.

The first is to protect them. COVID-19 is generally a mild or even asymptomatic illness in children but really it can cause children to become seriously unwell, need to go to hospital, or even in rare circumstances need to go to intensive care.

It will also help protect them from rarer complications of COVID-19 such as multisystem inflammatory syndrome (MIS) which happens in approximately one in 3000 children, and persisting symptoms like long COVID-19 which happens to a much smaller proportion of children than in adults but it's still something which I think a lot of parents would like to consider.

To protect the child themselves, that's the first reason, the second reason of course is to protect the whole household, and to protect grandparents so we're protecting our whānau.

The third reason is to protect our community. There are some children in our community who are at higher risk of serious illness than other children and it's important to take care of them.

So by being vaccinated we can protect our friends.

And the fourth reason is to help keep schools open. If we can reduce the overall burden of COVID-19 in the community we have the best shot of keeping our schools open.

Dr Jin Russell, Consultant Developmental Paediatrician at Starship Children's Hospital, explains the four main benefits of immunising children.

I think you should consider getting your children immunised.

I’m not going to tell you what to do today, but we are going to have a kōrero to work out if this is the right thing to do for your tamariki and your whānau.

What I’m going to suggest to you is that this is the right thing for you to do, but I would really like you to tell me all of the concerns that you have.

If I was going to discuss with you why I think this is the best thing for you to do.

Your tamariki exist in your whānau, they are part of your whānau. Unfortunately they can pass the virus onto everyone in your whānau.

We recommend that your tamariki have this vaccine because it provides a web of protection both for them, both for you, for your whānau, for their mates, for their school, and for everyone.

So that we can stop some of the things that we are seeing in the Māori community. Unfortunately Māori have suffered the worst effects of COVID-19 due to a number of reasons through no fault of their own.

So if we can get tamariki immunised it will increase the overall numbers of immunisations in Māori communities to protect whānau and Māori communities moving forward.

Dr Owen Sinclair, Paediatrician at Waitakere Hospital explains how immunising tamariki against COVID-19 provides a web of protection for them, your whānau, their mates, and their school.

When we look at what is COVID-19 like for children, for a lot of children it can be mild, but it can also be really severe.

Even if children have an illness, and get better, there are still quite a number of children that will get ongoing symptoms which we call long COVID-19 after their illness.

So I think that that's something that we need to keep in mind, it's not just about one illness.

There are some rarer more serious things that can happen when you get COVID-19, and so I think that we need to be real about what COVID-19 looks like as an illness.

In terms of the side effects of the vaccination, because that's what you're weighing up, what does it look like to get COVID-19 - versus what it's like to get the vaccination.

The side effects on the whole are mild, they happen in the first couple of days, they're around the local effects on your arm, so a bit sore maybe an achy body.

The more serious side effects like a severe allergy are very very rare.

I think aside from the symptoms and the illness of COVID-19, it's also the disruption that having COVID-19 brings.

Tamariki in Auckland have missed out on three months of in-person school, and so if our children get COVID-19, and they've been to school, that's going to affect the other children either by passing the COVID-19 on to them, but also by closing down their class because they'll become close contacts and need to stay at home.

If we're doing that continuously it really does disrupt our learning our ability to do our own work because not all of us have the option to work from home.

So the more our children can be protected and stay at school because they're immunised the better.

Dr Lily Fraser (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Mamoe, Waitaha, GP and clinical director of Turuki Healthcare) explains that for a lot of children, COVID-19 can be mild, but it can also be really severe.

Transcipt not available for this live stream

Hosted by Mihingarangi Forbes, watch a live stream about COVID-19 immunisation for 5 to 11-year-olds, featuring a panel of wāhine including paediatricians Dr Jin Russell and Dr Teuila Percival with Dr Hinemoa Elder and Dr Lily Fraser.


Research and data

The safety and efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine in 5 to 11-year-olds was first evaluated through clinical trials.

In the trial, participants were randomised to either receive two doses of the vaccine 21 days apart, or a placebo. 1,517 children received the vaccine, and 751 children received the placebo.

Real-world safety data is emerging quickly as the international rollout continues, and the Ministry and Medsafe are monitoring this closely as it emerges.

This vaccine has been provisionally approved or authorised and is being rolled out across the US, Canada, Europe, and Australia.


Common questions and concerns

What is the wait time for a vaccine if a child has had COVID-19?

It’s recommended to wait 3 months after a positive COVID-19 result, before getting any COVID-19 vaccination.

The 3-month interval should only be shortened for 5-17-year-olds in exceptional circumstances and should be assessed by a GP or specialist.  

Children and young adults have a good immune response to vaccines, and there is less data available on providing COVID-19 vaccines to children and adolescents less than 3 months after infection with COVID-19. 

Can a child have their second vaccination sooner than 8 weeks?

The time between doses can be shortened to a minimum of 21 days if needed, for example if the child is starting significant immunosuppression treatment. You will need to discuss this with the child's doctor.

What happens if a child turns 12 after their first dose?

If a child has their second vaccination after they have turned 12, they should still complete their vaccination course with the child dose of the Pfizer vaccine. They won't be given the adult Pfizer vaccine.

Can tamariki have the AstraZeneca vaccine?

No. Tamariki aged 5 to 11 are not eligible for the AstraZeneca vaccine.

Will tamariki ages 5 to 11 need a booster?

Current research does not support booster doses for children aged 5-11 years old. Children’s immune systems are different from adult immune systems. Children under 12 produce an appropriately strong immune response with two doses of the child (paediatric) vaccine. 

What if my child is big for their age? Can they have an adult Pfizer dose?

The weight or body mass of the child is not related to the immune response. The maturity of the immune system is what matters, which depends on the age of the child. Children’s immune systems are different from adult immune systems. Children under 12 produce an appropriately strong immune response with two doses of the child (paediatric) vaccine.  

What side effects do children experience from the vaccine?

The side effects of vaccination in children are similar to those seen in adults. These side effects are generally mild and should only last 1 or 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
  • aching muscles.

After vaccination they will need to stay for at least 15 minutes so that a health professional can monitor for any immediate adverse reactions.

If they feel 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.

Myocarditis and pericarditis

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and pericarditis is inflammation of the tissue forming a sac around the heart. Both can be mild or serious. They are usually caused by viruses, such as COVID-19, but are also very rare side effects of the Pfizer vaccine, especially in adolescents and young males.

Myocarditis and pericarditis weren't identified as side effects of the Pfizer vaccine in the 5- to 11-year-old age group in trials, however it is important to be aware of the symptoms for all ages who are vaccinated.

Symptoms of myocarditis and pericarditis linked to the Pfizer vaccine generally appear within a few days, and mostly within the first few weeks after having the vaccine. If anyone gets these symptoms after vaccination, you should seek medical help, especially if these symptoms don’t go away:

  • have tightness, heaviness, discomfort or pain in the chest or neck
  • have difficulty breathing or catching their breath
  • feel faint, dizzy or light-headed
  • have a fluttering, racing or pounding heart, or feeling they feel like it's ‘skipping beats’.

If the child experiences any of these symptoms in the days or weeks after the vaccine, they should see a doctor – there will be no charge for the consultation. You can also call Healthline on 0800 358 5453 anytime to get advice.

If you have an immediate concern about their health, call 111, and make sure you tell them they’ve had a COVID-19 Pfizer vaccine.

Can a child have the vaccine if they have an allergy?

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.

Pfizer 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.

If a 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. 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
  • antibiotics
  • blood products
  • DNA
  • egg proteins
  • fetal material
  • gluten
  • microchips
  • pork products
  • preservatives
  • soy
  • latex (the vial stopper is made with synthetic rubber – bromobutyl).

Can a child get other immunisations at the same time? 

Yes, it is okay to get several vaccines at the same time. Some immunisation clinics may also offer other childhood immunisations such as the MMR vaccine.  

Will children need to show proof of their vaccination?

There is no requirement (vaccine mandate) for tamariki to be immunised. It is completely up to the parents or caregivers to decide if they want their children immunised. 

My Vaccine Pass

Children under 12 years and 3 months do not need a My Vaccine Pass and can't get one. 

On Monday April 4 Vaccine Pass requirements were removed. However, businesses can still choose to retain My Vaccine Pass scanning if there are health and safety reasons for doing so. 

International Travel Vaccination Certificates

Children aged 5 to 11 are able to get an International Travel Vaccination Certificate through My Covid Record. A parent or caregiver needs to request this using their own account.

Once you're logged in, click 'Request a pass or certificate' and follow the steps. You will need the child's NHI number. 

Vaccination record

You can also get a copy of a child's COVID-19 vaccinations as a PDF. This document includes batch numbers, dose number, vaccine type, and any overseas vaccinations you’ve requested be added to their health record. 

COVID-19 vaccination record requests

Ask another question

If you have another question, you can call 0800 28 29 26 from 8am to 8pm, 7 days a week. The team will be able to chat through your concerns and, if needed, can refer you to a medical professional.

Chat to the disability team

The team is made up of people who have experience of a disability themselves, or who have worked with the disabled community.

They can answer any questions about:

  • accessibility arrangements at different vaccination centres
  • getting your vaccination safely
  • home vaccinations
  • any effects the vaccine may have on the child or medications.

The disability team is available Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm.

Call: 0800 28 29 26 and push 2
Free text: 8988
Email: [email protected]

Kia ora koutou, ko Eric Andersen toku ingoa. I'm Eric Andersen I'm one of the Paediatric Neurologists working here at Wellington hospital.

You can't consider a child without larger society, so why we need to protect tamariki Māori particularly is because for people under the  age of 11, we make up 25% to 30% of the population. Because we tend to live in multi-generational houses with our whānau with our grandparents and things. I think it's a really important thing that we do everything that we can to support Māori whānau to get their kids vaccinated particularly.

It's the same vaccine, it's the same components, so that it's just one third of the dose and in the same way to mount as good a response as they possibly can to protect them as best we can.

It's best for them to have two doses, we really want kids not to get this illness at all and so getting two doses is going to be important.

So, definitely the vaccine is safe for kids who've got asthma. Kids with asthma who get COVID-19 are six more times likely to be admitted to hospital than kids who get COVID-19 who don't have asthma, but in general hay fever, nut allergies wouldn't be something that would stop you from getting the vaccine.

I've been vaccinated, my wife's been vaccinated. Our nine-year-old, when the vaccine becomes available, she's keen to get vaccinated as well and we definitely want to support her with that and support everyone to get this done.

Appointments for children aged 5 to 11

Not every vaccination site stocks the paediatric Pfizer vaccine, but there are lots of ways to find a site convenient for you:

Giving consent

A responsible adult needs to accompany the child to their appointment(s). This may be a parent, an adult family member, trusted family friend, legal power of attorney, or whanaungatanga carer.

Consent for vaccination needs to be given by a legal guardian of the child.

If the adult who accompanies the child to the appointment is not the child’s legal guardian:

  • the vaccinator will need to verbally confirm by phone with a legal guardian that they consent to the child being vaccinated, or
  • the responsible adult can bring a signed copy of the COVID-19 vaccination consent form completed by a guardian.

This is standard consenting process.


Tips before vaccination

Prior to their vaccination appointment:

  1. provide encouragement and keep them relaxed
  2. make sure they have had something to eat and drink
  3. check they’re wearing clothes that make it easy to see and access their upper arm.

If they’re a little nervous, they’re welcome to take something to the appointment that will distract them, like a soft toy, phone or some music.

Tips to prepare for your COVID-19 vaccine appointment – IMAC

Getting your COVID-19 vaccine: What if I don’t like needles? – IMAC

How to talk to children about vaccination – Unite against COVID-19

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