Primary school-aged Queensland children can get the COVID vaccine from today. Here’s what you need to know

Parents in Queensland are being urged to use the delayed start to the school year to get their children vaccinated against COVID-19, with the first doses to be given to children aged  five to 11 years from today.

Key points:

  • Experts say the vaccine is safe and effective for children
  • Parents with appointments at one Brisbane hub have had their bookings cancelled
  • GPs and pharmacies across Queensland will receive the bulk of the vaccine supply

For Brisbane mother Katie Betts, this phase of the rollout could not come soon enough: Her sons Oliver, 8, and Harrison, 5, will be among the first in the queue.

"I was keen to get them vaccinated as soon as it's humanly possible to do so," Ms Betts said.

"I got the booster straight away, so it seemed fairly logical to try [to] get the kids vaccinated as soon as they could as well."

Ms Betts said she had been watching news of Australia's skyrocketing Omicron outbreak "with great trepidation" and wanted to protect her children and others from the virus.

"I'm mostly worried about how they're going to pass it on to our vulnerable relatives," she said.

"But I also would be pretty worried about the effects that COVID could have on them, even if it turns out to be mild, whether they get longer-term problems after having it."

While Ms Betts had no trouble getting an appointment at a state vaccination hub through the Queensland Health website, others have not found making a booking so straightforward.

Sara Moore booked an appointment for her son at a centre in Capalaba for January 13, only to later find out the site isn't doing vaccinations for 5-11-year-olds.

Parents were told via text message to book at South Brisbane or Logan Entertainment Centre instead.

Ms Moore got another slot for January 22 but is frustrated about the delay. 

"We're doing everything we were told to do … then found out the location listed through [the Queensland Health] website is not even doing them and now I'm at the back of the queue."

Other parents have been unable to book appointments with their local GP or pharmacy for this week because of uncertainty about initial supplies.

Queensland Health Minister Yvette D'Ath said the Commonwealth was responsible for delivering the doses.

Why vaccinate children?

Queensland Children's Hospital infectious diseases paediatrician Julia Clark has treated children with COVID-19, both in the United Kingdom and in Brisbane.

"Although children aren't expected to get really unwell, they can become a little unwell and they can certainly transmit within their own families and then within their peer groups," Dr Clark said.

"So there's two reasons to get vaccinated: One is to help the child not have an illness which may be fever, muscle aches and pains.

"And the other great benefit is to keep them going to school … all of the home schooling that we've seen has had a huge impact on children."

Infectious diseases paediatrician Dr Julie Clark has experience treating children with COVID-19 and says it's important they get vaccinated.(Supplied: Children's Health Queensland)What vaccine will they get and is it safe?

The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) recommended the use of the Pfizer vaccine for children aged five to 11 years, based on both clinical trials and real-world safety evidence.

Children in this age bracket will receive a lower dose of the vaccine — 10 micrograms — than those aged 12 years and older, who receive 30 micrograms.

Dr Clark said trials have shown "really good efficacy" for the Delta variant and "good efficacy" for Omicron and real-world data shows the vaccine itself is safe.

"With up to about seven million children now between the ages of five and 12 having been vaccinated worldwide, ongoing safety signals are not showing any significant problems within that [age group]."

Read more about the vaccine rollout:

Where can children get immunised?

In Queensland there are a few ways to go about it.

Can children be vaccinated at school?

In most places, no.

Ms D'Ath said pharmacists would offer vaccinations at about half a dozen schools in Far North Queensland because of a lack of GPs and pharmacies in those areas.

"But, as far as taking whole immunisation teams into the schools, we're not planning that yet, remembering that those programs are normally run by health workers and, right now, we need our health workers in our hospitals," she said.

When is the second dose due and when will children be protected?

ATAGI recommends children get their two doses eight weeks apart but also says: "The interval can be shortened in special circumstances to a minimum of three weeks — such as in an outbreak response, prior to the initiation of significant immunosuppression, or [prior to] international travel."

Dr Clark said it was a juggle between getting quick protection for children and an immune response that might be better in the long term.

"You would expect an immune response within the first two to three weeks having had the first dose," Dr Clark said.

"But the second dose is the one that really gives you really good protection … the theory is that you will get longer protection."

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Read moreWhat if my child is afraid of needles or has a phobia?

No one likes needles, but some children experience major needle anxiety.

"Vaccine clinics are trying to get as many children through as possible. They don't always have time to spend with children and adults who are scared," Dr Clark said.

"The first thing is talk to your GP or healthcare provider if they can do an individual response."

For children with a true needle phobia, Dr Clark said there were specific services.

"There are clinics that provide needle phobic set-ups that allow vaccination to be given, working through a whole process and that requires a (GP) referral," she said.

Does my child have to be vaccinated to go to school or childcare?

The State Government says vaccination is not mandatory for children.

What about babies and toddlers?

No COVID-19 vaccine has yet been approved in Australia for children under the age of five, but Pfizer is testing its inoculation in that age group.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, up and down arrows for volume.WatchDuration: 2 minutes 37 seconds2m 37s What to do if you're unwell and suspect you have COVID but can't get a test.What you need to know about coronavirus:

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