COVID-19 vaccine and children: Information for parents and caregivers

Tamariki aged 5 years and over are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. Learn about the effects COVID-19 could have on unvaccinated young people, the effectiveness and safety of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine, and what to expect during the appointment.

Last updated: 21 January 2022

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Ages 5 to 11

Parents and caregivers can now protect their tamariki aged 5 to 11 against COVID-19 with two child doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Tamariki aged 5 to 11 are not eligible for AstraZeneca or booster vaccinations.

The paediatric (child) formulation of the Pfizer vaccine is a lower dose and smaller volume compared to the adult formulation. It’s been chosen based on a trial which showed the lower dose was safe and had few side effects in this age group.

Tamariki need two doses of the vaccine to be fully protected. It’s recommended these are at least 8 weeks apart. 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.

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.

Immunising your child helps keep them safe, as well as protecting your whānau and community from COVID-19.

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

Appointments for children aged 5 to 11

Parents or caregivers of tamariki aged 5 to 11 can book appointments for children through Book My Vaccine.

You can also take a child to a walk-in or drive through site. Not all sites stock the Pfizer vaccine for children so please check before arriving.

List of sites offering vaccinations for ages 5 to 11 – Unite against COVID-19

Your usual health provider, hauora or general practice might also be offering COVID-19 vaccines for enrolled patients. Contact your local doctor to find out more.

If you want to book for more than one child, or you’re unable to book online, you can call the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week) and we’ll make the booking for you and answer any questions. Interpreters are available.

Options for families also include drive-throughs that allow whānau to be vaccinated together in their vehicle and many vaccination centres have created special child-friendly environments. 

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.


Ages 12 to 15

Young people aged 12 to 15 are eligible for a full adult dose of the Pfizer vaccine. The two doses need to be taken at a minimum of 3 weeks apart. They are not eligible for AstraZeneca or booster vaccinations.

Appointments for ages 12 to 15

12 to 15-year-olds can go to any vaccination site as they are given the standard adult Pfizer dose.

You can:

  • book appointments through Book My Vaccine
  • call the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week) and we’ll make the booking for you and answer any questions. Interpreters are available.
  • go to any walk-in or drive-through site
  • contact your usual health provider, hauora or general practice might also be offering COVID-19 vaccines for enrolled patients.

While young people aged 12 and above have the right to give their own consent, we recommend they discuss vaccination with their parents, whānau or a trusted support person.

A health professional will also discuss the vaccine with them before they get vaccinated and answer any questions they have. If they have a good understanding, they can say yes or no to getting the vaccine. If they’d prefer, a parent or caregiver can provide consent instead.

COVID-19 vaccine informed consent for young people aged 12-15 years policy statement (PDF, 176 KB)

12 to 15-year-olds getting the vaccine (PDF, 542 KB)


Effects of COVID-19 on unvaccinated children and young adults

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

Effects of Omicron and Delta

The Delta variant does not appear to cause more severe disease among children and adolescents compared to previous variants.

There is little information available about Omicron yet, but it is at least as transmissible as Delta. It is not yet known whether it causes more severe illness than Delta or whether it puts children at greater risk than Delta. Data is rapidly emerging.

More information about variants

Long COVID in children and young adults

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 and adolescents. 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).


Vaccine effectiveness in children and young adults

The Pfizer vaccine is highly effective. That means if immunised children and young adults 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.

Pfizer has reported 100% efficacy against symptomatic COVID-19 infection in the 12- to 15-year-old age group – with a higher antibody response than was seen in the 16- to 25-year-old age group.


Vaccine safety in young people

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.

The trials in 5 to 11-year-olds with a paediatric (child) dose of the Pfizer showed the vaccine was safe, and side effects were similar to those observed with the full dose in 12 to 15-year-olds. The side effects were generally mild.

Millions of people aged 12 to 15 have now been vaccinated around the world, and no additional safety concerns have been raised.

The Ministry of Health also receives regular advice from science experts in the COVID-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group (CV TAG) which recommends the use of COVID-19 vaccines in different age groups. CV TAG have considered all scientific and technical data in recommending the use of vaccination in these age groups and will continue to monitor safety data from the real-world rollout internationally and in Aotearoa New Zealand.


Research and data

The safety and efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine in 5- to 11-year-olds and 12- to 15-year-olds was first evaluated through clinical trials.

5- to 11-year-olds

For the trial among 5- to 11-year-olds, 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.

More information about the clinical trial in children aged 5 to 11

This vaccine has been provisionally approved or authorised in the US, Canada, Israel and Australia, and rollout has begun in the US and Canada. Australia is due to roll out the paediatric (child) vaccine shortly.

12- to 15-year-olds

There were 1,131 12- to 15-year-olds who received the vaccine in the clinical trial for this age group, and 1,129 who received a placebo.

More information about the clinical trial in young people

Since the vaccine has been approved for 12- to 15-year-olds, millions of people in this age group have been vaccinated around the world.

Real-world data showing that the vaccine is safe and effective in younger populations is also emerging.


Side effects of vaccination

The side effects of vaccination in children and young adults 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

Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and it can be mild or serious. It is usually caused by viruses, such as COVID-19, but it is also a very rare side effect of the Pfizer vaccine, especially in adolescents and young males.

Myocarditis wasn’t identified as a side effect 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 linked to the Pfizer vaccine generally appear within a few days, and mostly within the first week 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 or young person experiences any of these symptoms in the days or weeks after the vaccine, they should see a doctor. 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.

Allergies

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).
Full list of ingredients

Active ingredient

30µg of a nucleoside modified messenger RNA encoding the viral spike (S) glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2

Fats

These ingredients make up the lipid nanoparticle which is the transport mechanism for the active ingredient to make it inside a cell without being broken down.

  • (4-hydroxybutyl)azanediyl)bis(hexane-6,1-diyl)bis(2-hexyldecanoate)
  • 2[(polyethylene glycol)-2000]-N,N-ditetradecylacetamide
  • 1,2-distearoyl-sn-glycero-3- phosphocholine
  • cholesterol.

Salts

These ingredients help make sure the vaccine pH is close to that of human cells.

  • potassium chloride
  • monobasic potassium phosphate
  • sodium chloride
  • dibasic sodium phosphate dihydrate

Sugar

This ingredient protects the lipid nanoparticle at very cold temperatures (-80 degrees celsius that the vaccine is stored at).

sucrose

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.

Watch: Cyrus' story about getting his vaccine

I was worried my arm would be sore and that I would get sick from the jab.

My mind was changed after I met the nice people at the vaccination centre.

Larisa was the person who talked to me. She called me by my name which made me feel so much better and not so scared.

You are allowed to be worried,but don't let it stop you.

I found out more about the vaccine by going on the Ministry of Health website.

I can't run away from COVID-19, but being vaccinated means COVID-19 will run away from me.

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

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

Questions or concerns?

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.

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