Top paediatrician answers your questions on Covid-19 and flu vaccines for children


In September, the UK’s Chief Medical Officers recommended vaccinating all 12 to 15 year olds with a first dose of Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, to protect their physical and mental health and education. The flu vaccine programme for schools has also been extended from all primary school children plus Year 7 of secondary, to now include all secondary school pupils up to and including Year 11.

Over the last month or so, most parents across the country would have received letters in their book bags inviting eligible children to get their vaccines in school. The aim is to immunise as many children as possible ahead of winter, as scientists are predicting it may be a bad flu season as well as a surge in Covid-19 cases, which some schools are already experiencing.

Dr Hazel Fofie is a children’s doctor in London with a special interest in acute paediatrics, adolescent health and infectious diseases. Hazel is also a Clinical Research Fellow at St Georges University in London, where she has taken part in various studies at the university’s Vaccine Institute, including Covid-19 trials. Here, she answers readers’ common questions on vaccines for children.

Is the Covid vaccine safe for children?

The Covid-19 (Pfizer-BioNTech) vaccine has now been tested in children in clinical trials in the USA, UK and Israel, and is shown to be safe and effective for young people. The Covid vaccine has now been available for over a year. Since this summer, tens of millions of young people around the world in countries like the USA, New Zealand, Canada, Spain and Israel, have also had vaccine protection for their physical and mental health, helping to keep their lives on track.

If Covid-19 mostly affects older people, why do young people need the vaccine?

Currently, the highest rise in Covid cases in the UK is in children who are unvaccinated. Although children and young people are less likely to be hospitalised with severe Covid-19, they can still get sick from the virus, and may have to miss school or suffer from long Covid symptoms.

The vaccine protects children by reducing the likelihood of catching Covid-19, and reducing the severity of the virus, if they do get infected. It also reduces their role in transmitting the virus, a child who is vaccinated is less likely to spread the virus. If enough children are vaccinated, they help provide a wall of safety for everyone around them. They may also stop new variants emerging because the virus doesn’t have a chance to take hold.

Right now, some schools are experiencing a rise in Covid-19 cases, and we all know too well the impact of school closures or contact isolation on young peoples’ lives.

Why is it important that children get the flu vaccine?

Having the flu vaccine will help protect your child from what can be a very nasty illness for children. Children under the age of 5 have the highest rate of hospital admission for flu. Vaccinating your child also reduces the chance of others in your family, who could be at greater risk from severe flu, such as grandparents or those with long term, getting flu from your child.

What kind of Covid-19 and flu vaccines are given to children and young people?

At present, young people aged 12-15 years are being offered just one dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. This is the only Covid-19 vaccine approved for this age group at present.

Young people with existing health conditions are at greater risk of developing severe Covid-19 and those who live with someone with an immune disorder are offered two doses of Covid-19 vaccine eight weeks apart. Those with suppressed immune disorders may need a course of three injections.  Your child’s GP or hospital consultant can advise on what’s best for your child.

With the flu vaccine, most children are offered a nasal spray vaccine. Children aged 2 or 3 years (before September 2021) can get the flu vaccine at their GP surgery, while primary and secondary school aged children from reception to year 11 will be offered the vaccine in school. Children with long term health conditions are eligible for the flu vaccine from 6 months to 17 years of age. Some children can’t have the nasal spray vaccine, and they will be offered an injection instead.

The virus that causes Covid-19 and the virus that causes the flu are two completely different viruses, therefore two different vaccines are needed. Both vaccines can be given at the same appointment, alongside other vaccines for school children such as HPV, DTP MenACWY vaccines.

 How do children get the flu and Covid-19 vaccine?

Most children and young people will be offered both vaccines with their class in school. Parents and guardians will get a letter from the school immunisation service provider with detailed information about both vaccines, including consent requirements.

For the Covid-19 vaccine only, young people 12+ can also get an appointment at a walk-in clinic or their GP and be vaccinated the same time as the rest of their family, if they want. An appointment can be booked online at nhs.uk/covidvaccine.

For 2 and 3 year olds (provided they were this age on the 31 August 2021), you should receive an invitation for your child to have their flu vaccine at their GP surgery before the winter. You can also contact the surgery directly to make an appointment.

Will my children be offered the vaccine at school without my knowledge?

Parents will be asked to provide consent either online or by signing a paper form before their children are vaccinated in school. Separate consent must be given for the flu and Covid-19 vaccines. Leaflets will be handed out with further information on the vaccines, helping you make the best decision for your family. It’s best to discuss getting vaccinated with your children and reach a decision together.

In secondary schools, some young people will be mature enough to provide their own consent. Healthcare professionals from the school’s immunisation team will speak to the young person and make every effort to contact the parent. These professionals have expertise in vaccinating young people and will be responsible for assessing whether they have enough understanding to self-consent (this is called ‘Gillick competence’). This is a well-established process which you may be familiar with from other school-based vaccination programmes.

Vaccines programmes have been safely run in schools for a long time and have made a huge contribution to public health.

For more information on the Covid vaccine for children, visit: www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-vaccination-resources-for-children-and-young-people or nhs.uk/covidvaccine to find your nearest centre.

For more information on the flu vaccine for children, visit: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/child-flu-vaccine/

 

 

Comments

RE: SPONSORSHIP TO BULD A HOME FOR NELSON VENUS CHILDREN CHARITY FOUNDATION
Am Nelson Tebusweke, male aged thirty (32) years old. Am a uganan and a muganda by tribe and come from the central part of the country. I am an Orphan and a Medical Doctor by profession, i’m born again Christian by faith.
My family background, academic achievements, working experience and community services have all helped me work towards my goals. I enjoy reading, making friends and listening to music. To relax, I enjoy football and athletics.
I also rekindled my childhood passion for Volleyball recently. More still, Nelson is talented at singing and dancing, and with this I have led and trained different dance groups at school. I am a self-motivated and determined individual who prays until something happens (PUSH).
Nelson is a caring and compassionate person who never rests until I see someone hurting around me being helped with the little capacity I could have, through encouraging and praying for them.
I do not indulge and entertain any unbecoming behaviors whether privately or publicly-thus am morally upright and honest. I sleep not more than six hours at night because of my desire to expertly meet my tasks and goals.
Through different life experiences and challenges I have met, I have learnt to be hardworking, patient and persistent in achieving my goals in life.
I aim at respecting all secrets confided in me because I interact with very many people who are accountable to me. The youths in my village approach me easily, they trust me as I show them respect and never discriminate amongst any.
Inspiring other children in the foundation to search for knowledge kindles my own quest to understand the world and the people around me.
To me, fearless is not absence of fear. Fearless is having doubts. Lots of them. To me, fearless is living inspite of those things that scare you to death. This quote was written by a young song writer named Taylor swift and it is my motto for everything.
I basically come from a parentless nuclear family. I have five (5) siblings of which three (3) are boys, two (2) are girls and am the second last born. My mum died when I was eight (8) years old in 1992 at the age of 44 and Dad died in 1996 when he was 54 years of age.
They both passed away because of HIV-AIDS, and they left eight (8) orphans. By then our eldest brother-George Baskerville Kafero had just finished University with a bachelor’s Degree in Civil Engineering at Dar el salaam University.
Actually, Dad died with a strong heart because much of his last days he toiled so much to keep George at school so that when he passes on (Dad), his son would take care of the young ones. Unfortunately, after Dad’s death, tragedy knocked again at our house door claiming another life.
By then we were all looking up to Dad’s heir (George) for support. Little did we know that he had also contracted the virus while at University. Just after Dad’s burial, our eldest brother luckily got a job and started working. Few months later, he started falling sick.
At first everyone at home was praying so hard that God could help out and protect our only source of help by then.
Because he had been with the virus and no one had known about it, when signs and symptoms manifested, they deteriorated him so fast. The only money he had saved from his new job had to be used to pay his expensive medical bills and this forced almost all us out of school because we did not have any other financial help, but to use the little that was available to see our brother live some more time (as if money could buy life for our brother).
Because we had gotten enough agony when we lost our parents, we could not afford losing another dear one. After a long struggle of treatment Schedules, the devil was still at work. We painfully and shockingly lost our dear brother in 1998 at the age of 30years.The whole family became sabotaged and split up because we did not have anyone to hold us by hand.
Three of us –me, my little sister and my elder brother, who were still in school, were taken to the village to stay with our grandmother-called Miss Nansubuga Stella-aged 70yearsLife transition was not easy for us and the world seemed closed for us.
Thank God-HE proved the devil is always a loser, and there came our aunt who did not have much money but promised to try what she could, to keep us in school.
She struggled with her promise, but failed out with one of us (little sister) because her income source had gotten almost depleted. While in the village in 1999, our third born –Catherine Namuddu, fell sick too and passed away due to HIV-AIDS.
My whole family was being reduced one by one. This marked the turning point in my life. It affected my school grades slightly and life proved a hustle for me because of what was happening to my family.
But the determination I had kept me going no matter what. I had to find a way to embrace the seemingly irreconcilable contrasts in my life. I then gave my life to Jesus as my lord and savior because I realized it was only God who could save the day.
I prayed to God to have mercy over my family and he heard my plea. Thank God since then HIV-AIDS is a story in my family. This tragedy boosted my zeal to study hard, finish and help out people suffering with HIV-AIDS mostly the vulnerable children.

I think everyone should live their life fearless and be able to pursue anything they have their mind set on. I never think someone should be able to pull you down, everyone is worth it. No matter what brings you down, you must get back up, brush yourself off and move on.

Although education plays a significant role in my life, I have involved in many other activities. As part of my goals persuasion I have experienced in project management and report writing, I have gained invaluable team working, time management and presentation skills-where I produced a report which was commended by a number of Tutors and Lecturers at school.
I was selected to attend a workshop on the study “The prevalence and treatment of malaria and Tuberculosis in children” at Makerere University in 2008, this enhanced my problem solving ability and adapting my knowledge to new challenging situations beyond the scope of my school work .
I have organized and taught a continuous medical education (CME) on physical disabilities for other medical workers at my work place. Further utilizing my organizational and team working skills, I was elected to lead the physiotherapy department at work and emerged as the employee of the month during that time.
The knowledge I have in ICT gives me a valuable insight into the rapidly developing technological world, which has enhanced my inter-personal and communication skills as I interact with my community members.
I attended training in management of Rugby Injuries. I belong to the Uganda National Physiotherapy Association. In addition to, I volunteered at a Non-government organization-COMBRA, for children with disabilities, where I trained children with physical malformations to perform skills of daily living.
I have also managed to offer voluntary services to people in my village through outreaches on health education and sensitization with my colleagues. Still, I have involved in the community general cleaning as a volunteer.
I have also participated in sensitization of my community in blood donation services as a member of the Uganda Red Cross, for people who would be saved due to lack of blood .At High school; I was a member of the Scripture Union club and Horticulture club where I served as a volunteer still.
Depending on the big numbers of children in my community whose parents died of the VIRUS, this pushed me to collect and take care of them, and i called this charity care my name;
(NELSON VENUS CHILDREN FOUNDATION) And we are forty in number (40), and we do believe God will make away for us, AMEN and AMEN.
My major dream is, to see Nelson Venus Children Foundation (NVCF) becoming a home far away from home for the HIV/AIDS vulnerable children in Uganda; Please help me not to chase after wind. When I started the foundation, I had saved off some money to cater for their school fees and the food.
This forced me out of the full-time contract job to look for a part time job. This left me with not enough pay as a part time worker which can only cater a few of school and food expenses, We need A HELPING HAND,
so this donation will be of great help to US in terms of health for the children, school fees, build a school, and food for the children. Health care services in my area are still poor,
so when am given help financially and I finish project I would go back and give more help. It is exhilarating and inspiring to consider how many lives am going to save after finishing this children foundation. I have always prayed to God that one day I see the light at the end of the tunnel, as I committed my life to helping others and advancing society’s level of understanding.
Thank you very much for giving me a ray of hope that life can have a meaning. May the good lord bless you Amen.

Yours faithfully,
NELSON TEBUSWEKE
CONTACT: nelsonvenuschildrenfoundation@gmail.com
CALL/WHATSAPP ( +27736463517 )


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