Ten-year-old Nate and his 11-year-old brother Trent Barrell have boosted their protection against Covid-19 after being one of the first children under 12 to receive their vaccine in Northland.
Nate said he wasn't nervous at all before his appointment at Central Family Health Care general practice in Whangārei yesterday.
When asked afterwards if the injection hurt, Nate's quick answer was: "Nope," and said he got vaccinated to protect his mum and dad from the virus.
Central Family Health is one of many locations, including GP practices, Northland District Health Board vaccination clinics, pharmacies and Māori healthcare providers that are offering vaccines for children aged 5-11.
Centre manager Ruth Redfern said the first day was going "really well", with nurses immunising more than 60 children – averaging one every five minutes.
The practice is running a child's vaccination day each week, on Tuesdays.
Registered nurse and vaccinator Amy Burke, who welcomes the kids in a golden tutu and with a cheerful smile, said it was about making anxious children comfortable before administering the vaccine.
"A lot of kids are quite motivated to get their vaccine. Most parents have done extensive research before coming here but we do offer additional information if needed," Burke said.
Nate and Brent's mother Tania Barrell is an ED nurse and said parents might naturally be more hesitant to get their children vaccinated even if they were comfortable getting the jab for themselves.
For Barrell, however, it was a no-brainer:
"I only asked if I should wait with Brent until he turns 12 so he can get the full dose. But the doctors said it was better to have him immunised as soon as possible because of Omicron."
In Northland, 19,475 children are eligible to receive the paediatric vaccine, with 54 per cent of those being Māori and 39 per cent European.
The Northland DHB has set up dedicated booths for children at their Kaitaia, Kerikeri, Whangārei and Dargaville vaccination clinics.
The vaccine used for tamariki has a lower dose and volume than the adult vaccine and is administered using a smaller needle.
Children require two doses at least eight weeks apart.
A parent or legal guardian needs to be present to provide consent for the child to be immunised.
Dr Gary Payinda, an emergency doctor at Whangārei Hospital, took to social media to encourage parents to get their children vaccinated:
"Even a child can understand that avoiding infection is preferable to becoming infected," Dr Payinda posted on Facebook.
"We protect all of these groups, as well as the health of our overall healthcare system (which is falling over in most places due to Omicron numbers), by wearing masks indoors around others and by getting vaccinated."
Starship paediatric consultant Dr Jin Russell, who has been providing independent advice on protecting children from Covid-19 to the Ministry of Health, added:
"We now have real-world safety data from over eight million doses of the Pfizer vaccine administered to children aged 5–11 years in the United States. I have confidence the Pfizer vaccine is very safe for children."
Dr Russell's advice for parents on preparing their child for vaccination includes good communication prior to and during the appointment, keeping calm and planning something for afterwards.
"A key thing is to tell them why they are going to be vaccinated. I say to my boys, you are going to be vaccinated to protect yourself against Covid-19, and to protect our family, your grandparents, our community, and other kids at school who may be more at risk from Covid-19 if they catch it."
Similar to the adult vaccine, children are likely to have a sore arm and get redness, pain or swelling at the injection site.
Common side effects include headache; fever; nausea; vomiting; diarrhoea; fatigue and general discomfort. Plenty of fluids and rest are recommended.
The Ministry of Health says that severe reactions to the Pfizer vaccine are rare and usually occur within a few minutes of the vaccination, which is why children and their parents will be asked to stay in an observation area for monitoring for 15 minutes after the injection.
Myocarditis and pericarditis are rare but serious side effects of the Pfizer vaccine.
No cases were seen in children during the clinical trials; however, it is important to be aware of the symptoms for all ages who are vaccinated.
These include discomfort; heaviness; tightness or pain in their chest; difficulty breathing; feelings of having a fast-beating; fluttering or pounding heart; feeling faint; or feeling light-headed or dizzy.
Information around immunising tamariki with disabilities is available on 0800 28 29 26 and push 2 or visit firstname.lastname@example.org.
Children in New Zealand regularly get 15 vaccines and boosters from when they are born until the age of 12 to protect them from diseases such as measles, hepatitis B, polio and mumps. Most of these are administered before the age of 4.
Visit northlanddhb.org.nz/covid-19 for more information about the vaccine and where to book them.