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Ready, set, NO!


A stop-start first day for rollout

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It was a difficult vaccine rollout for the Wairarapa District Health Board [DHB] on Monday.

Wairarapa received the paediatric-specific vaccines Monday morning and for a time the DHB was unable to take online bookings due to technical problems.

At least 33 children received their first jab of the covid-19 vaccine on Monday, the first day it was made available for five- to 11-year-olds.

Wairarapa was, however, far from the only site in New Zealand that met obstacles with the vaccine rollout for tamariki.

Pharmacies in Auckland also reported issues with administering vaccines due to the tight timeframe for preparation and many had been left off the online booking system on the first day of the campaign.

Bookings were essential for children and walk-ins would be turned away. DHB covid response lead Matt Fribbens said a dedicated space for children would be in operation by today, on the third floor of the Departmental Building in Masterton.

The tamariki specific area included whiteboards, the Disney Channel, and toys that would be regularly cleaned to help keep children calm and entertained.

Fribbens said it was important that whanau were accommodated and said bookings were staggered at longer, 15-minute intervals “to ensure a nice-as-possible experience for everyone”.

He encouraged caregivers to make multiple bookings if more than two children were being vaccinated at a time.

Fribbens said a guardian would need to provide written consent for children to receive the jab, and if eligible, could receive their booster at the same time.

The Departmental Building was the only site administering vaccines to children. However, the DHB anticipated pharmacies and medical practices would soon be made available to all age groups, and did not rule out mobile clinics at schools.

Last week, Wairarapa primary schools were anticipating another disrupted year with omicron on the horizon, and said they were awaiting official communication about their role in the vaccine rollout for tamariki.

In December, Minister of Health Chris Hipkins said schools were being considered as community vaccination sites, but said there were no plans for a school-based immunisation programme.

South End School principal Clare Crawford said she would be “more than happy” to have a mobile clinic at the Carterton school.

She said the school was in a central location on State Highway 2 and children attended from across Wairarapa.

“The school is the hub of the community and I want to support parents and make life easier for them, should they decide to vaccinate their children,” she said.

Crawford was anticipating contact from the DHB ahead of the school term starting on February 2.

“We are waiting to see what has been asked, we have heard nothing yet.”

Masterton’s Douglas Park School principal Gareth Sinton said the school would be open to hosting a mobile clinic and suspected the DHB would have a rollout plan that schools could opt-in to.

He said the school would do what was right for the community.

“If that is what the community wants then we will talk to the board.”

Lakeview School principal Tim Nelson said he had not been contacted by health authorities but said the school felt there were “sufficient vaccination sites in Masterton” and did not anticipate Lakeview hosting a vaccination site.

Featherston School prinicipal Gina Smith said schools were a safe haven for children, and thought the rhetoric around vaccinated versus unvaccinated could be harmful.

She said it had been difficult for children over the past couple of years.

“It has been years of disruption and it’s just so horrible for them, they’re struggling.”

While some disease experts in New Zealand have called for a delay to the start of school term to give communities time to be vaccinated, others have argued a delay could be more harmful and disproportionately affect disadvantaged children.

Wairarapa DHB said they were “keen to work with schools on mobile covid-19 vaccination clinics” and expected to have a detailed rollout plan by the end of January.

The DHB said from January 17, children could be booked for a vaccine at the Departmental Building in Masterton.

The Pfizer vaccine, which Medsafe provisionally approved for children in December, is a lower dose and smaller volume.

Children need two doses, eight weeks apart to be fully protected.

Clinical trials of the vaccine in children showed side effects were generally mild and short lasting.

The vaccine side effects myocarditis and pericarditis were not seen in clinical trials.

How to prepare children to be immunised:

  • Talk to them about what is going to happen.
  • Tell them there will be a small needle and that they will feel a quick scratch or sting.
  • They may have a sore arm, feel a bit sick or feel tired afterwards.
  • Let them know they are getting vaccinated so they are protected from covid-19.
  • Plan a fun event afterwards or a treat to look forward to [this will help for the second dose].

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