Vaccination of children is slower than that of adolescents, but few report adverse effects
Next day appointments continue to be available at NSW Health vaccination centres, but GPs and pharmacists in Sydney say demand at their clinics has significantly exceeded allocated doses, with parents opting to book weeks in advance so that their child receives the vaccine in a more familiar environment. .
Hours before Summer’s shot, Ms Kelly vaccinated her 500th child, despite receiving a fortnightly allowance of 100 doses.
“I just contact many pharmacies and if someone doesn’t want to, they order for me,” she said.
There are 3,000 pharmacies administering adult COVID-19 vaccines nationwide, although about 1,000 have signed up to do the doses for children. The pharmacists who spoke to the Herald said the lower discount for the children’s vaccine – $16 per injection – saw some focus on administering boosters instead.
Cabramatta’s pharmacist, Quinn On, also collected unwanted children’s doses from other pharmacies. He said he would like to offer walk-in dates, as he was being visited by several families a day without a reservation. However, the problem was the timing.
“Children take longer on average and we’ve never really had to [vaccinate] children under 10 before,” he said. “You have those screaming and those suddenly jerking off and it takes you about 20 minutes to calm them down. All for $16.
For GPs who routinely deliver vaccines to children and know how many children are linked to their clinic, a limited supply doesn’t make sense, said Royal Australian College of GPs NSW/ACT Chair Dr Charlotte Hesp.
Holly Seale, a vaccine communications expert at the University of NSW, said another reason for the slow uptake could be a lack of incentive for parents to book.
While the easing of COVID-19 restrictions in 2021 was tied to vaccination targets – perhaps pushing otherwise apathetic people to come forward – a stronger engagement strategy was now needed for parents to stress the importance to get vaccinated before school starts and the safety of vaccines, she said.
The latest data from the AusVaxSafety survey shows that young children report a lower incidence of adverse effects from their vaccine than older age groups.
Only 29% of the 21,000 children aged 5 to 11 who responded to the survey after being vaccinated last week reported symptoms, most often very mild reactions such as pain at the injection site or tiredness.
In contrast, among people aged 12 and older who received a first dose of Pfizer’s adult COVID-19 vaccine, 37% reported an adverse reaction.
How to prepare your child for a COVID-19 vaccine.
Associate Professor Margie Danchin, head of the vaccination group at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, explains that there are key questions to ask young children before their vaccinations:
- Do they know they need to get vaccinated against coronavirus?
- If they have questions about the vaccine?
- Would they like to choose when and where to get vaccinated?
- Who would they like to attend the date with them?
- Would they like to bring a toy, like a teddy bear, game, or iPad to their date?
“By asking and answering some of these simple questions, you can gauge how anxious they are and give them some control over the process,” she said.
Dr Danchin said parents could ask their vaccine provider for distraction devices and other equipment that could make vaccination more comfortable, noting that public clinics provide weak sensory pathways for some children.
“With elementary school kids, if they don’t get a flu shot every year, most aren’t used to getting a shot,” she said. “The most important thing is not to drag them without a conversation.”
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