Western NSW Local Health District (WNSWLHD) experts are urging parents and carers to book their children in for a COVID-19 vaccination as soon as possible, to help protect both kids and those around them.
Dr Allan Kerrigan, WNSWLHD Paediatrician and Staff Specialist, has seen first-hand how COVID-19 can affect children but also the impact it can have on people around those them.
Drawing on his experience, Dr Kerrigan has broken down why it is so important to ensure children have the added protection COVID-19 vaccination builds, particularly heading into colder months of the year.
Protection against serious illness from COVID-19
- Vaccines train a child’s immune system to fight COVID-19 as soon as they are exposed.
- Children are still at risk of serious illness and hospitalisation from COVID-19.
- Children have naturally robust immune systems react rapidly to build protection from vaccines.
“Evidence is showing that COVID-19 infection is often milder in children than it is in adults, but there is still a very real chance it could cause serious illness for kids,” Dr Kerrigan said.
“That is particularly true for children who may have underlying health concerns like asthma, obesity, prematurity or compromised immune systems.
“Vaccinations provide children with an extra layer of protection by giving their immune systems a leg up. We can’t be complacent, all children are still at risk from COVID-19.”
Added protection for people around children, including vulnerable people
- Over one third of total infections in WNSWLHD have been young people aged 19 or under.
- Milder symptoms in children can increase the likelihood of unconfirmed infections.
- Vaccinations can help to reduce transmission between children and wider spread.
“Milder symptoms can be mistaken for other illnesses, then can lead to wider spread as a result of unconfirmed COVID-19 cases. We saw how quickly that happened early in the outbreak, when kids weren’t yet eligible for vaccination,” Dr Kerrigan said.
“Vaccination can help to reduce transmission, so ensuring good coverage in both children and adults alike reduces the chance of serious illness for everyone in our communities.
“When you’re thinking about this, consider elderly grandparents or people who are immunocompromised. When you have a safe, effective and easy way to help protect them, it doesn’t make sense to miss that opportunity.”
Minimise educational, social and emotional hurdles
- The impact of COVID-19 can extend beyond physical illness in many other areas of life.
- Children experience important developmental phases while aged five to 11.
- Disruption caused by COVID-19 can have a negative impact on children’s education.
“It is incredibly important that we let our children do what kids do, which benefits them from health, educational, social and emotional perspectives,” Dr Kerrigan said.
“While a number of measures have been necessary throughout the outbreak, disruptions caused by COVID-19 can still have an impact. Illness and isolation requirements can still pose hurdles for children going to school, socialising with friends, playing sport and building important connections.
“Ensuring your child is vaccinated helps reduce the chance of those disruptions and will help ensure our kids can be kids, and enjoy the aspects of life that are so important for children.”
The expert’s bottom line
“Without such a strong response from the community, vaccination coverage in adults would not be where it is today across the District. But we haven’t seen the same rapid response since kids aged five to 11 have become eligible for vaccination,” Dr Kerrigan said.
“There has been some hesitancy towards children’s vaccinations, but the simple fact is COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. The benefits far outweigh any small risks.
“Serious side-effects like heart inflammation from vaccines are incredibly rare, and children are actually significantly more likely to experience those impacts as a result of COVID-19 infection than because of a vaccine. There is no evidence to suggest COVID-19 vaccines impact a child’s growth or fertility and they can help reduce the chances of longer-term effects of COVID-19.
“COVID-19 has not disappeared and as the colder months approach, children and adults alike will begin getting sick more often. Think about how the impact that can have on our communities, including our health services.
“Don’t wait, get your children vaccinated now and when you do, think about other vaccinations they may need heading into those colder months like the influenza vaccine.”
- Up to 20 February, almost 45 per cent of eligible people aged five to 11 had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. The recommended interval between first and second doses is eight weeks.
- At this stage, it is not recommended that children aged five to 11 require a booster. However, it is recommended that immunocompromised children should receive three initial doses.
- COVID-19 vaccination is available at WNSWLHD hubs and clinics, along with a range of other providers including GPs, Pharmacists and Aboriginal Medical Services.
- More information on COVID-19 vaccination for parents and carers is available here.
- For more information on COVID-19 vaccination, boosters and to find a provider near you visit the Federal Government’s COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Finder.
- For more information on WNSWLHD’s COVID-19 vaccination hubs and mobile community clinics visit the WNSWLHD website.