Answers to your COVID-19 vaccine questions

We’re here to provide you with as much information as possible about how you can best protect your whānau, hapū and iwi from COVID-19.

Here are some answers to the most common questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Vaccinations for tamariki

Parents and caregivers can get their tamariki aged 5 and over immunised against COVID-19 from 17th January 2021.

The Pfizer vaccine used for tamariki has the same ingredients as the one used for adults, but it is a smaller dose. Tamariki will need two doses to be fully protected. The doses should be at least eight weeks apart. The time between doses could be reduced to 21 days if needed, for example if your child is starting immune suppression treatment.

Parents or caregivers will need to come with their tamariki when they get immunised to provide their consent.

Immunisations are an important tool to protect our tamariki from many infectious and serious diseases. It also helps stop their spread.

In Aotearoa, tamariki get free vaccinations against 12 diseases including whooping cough, measles and polio.

COVID-19 usually has a milder effect on tamariki, similar to having a cold. However, some tamariki who haven’t been immunised can become very ill. Some can also suffer long term effects, known as long COVID.

Immunising our 5-11 year-olds can help protect other vulnerable whānau members, including younger tamariki who can’t get vaccinated.

The Pfizer vaccine has gone through clinical trials with thousands of tamariki aged 5-11.

The reported side effects were mild and short-term - like those experienced from other routine vaccines.

The vaccine is safe for children with food allergies. Unlike some other vaccines, there is no food, gelatin or latex in the Pfizer vaccine.

There are a few practical things you can do to help your tamariki in this process. Make sure they have had some to eat or drink beforehand. It is helpful to dress in clothing that allows access to their upper arm, and a distraction such as a toy is welcome.

As with any immunisation,  tamariki are likely to have a sore arm and get redness, pain or swelling at the injection site. Other reactions that can occur, usually within one or two days, include:

  • headache
  • a fever (feeling hot)
  • nausea (feeling sick), vomiting, diarrhoea
  • fatigue
  • general discomfort (feeling unwell, aches and pains).

These are common and show that the vaccine is working. Rest and plenty of fluids will help.

Severe reactions to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are very rare and usually occur straight away after the vaccination. Your tamariki will be monitored by clinical staff after they get their shot to make sure they get are looked after if this happens. If you are concerned about side effects from the vaccine at any time you can ring 0800 358 5453 for support.

The best way to book a whānau or group is by phoning the COVID-19 Healtline 0800 28 29 26. For an individual booking, go online to www.BookMyVaccine

To find further information about immunising your tamariki against COVID-19 click here.

Why vaccinate

Most whānau are getting vaccinated because it's the most powerful way to protect against COVID-19. If most of us are vaccinated it makes it harder for the virus to spread. Community outbreaks have led to lockdowns and put our health system under pressure.

High vaccination rates will give our whānau more freedom and enable the health system to focus on the other things we need it to do.

When we get vaccinated, we also better protect those in our community who can’t get immunised. 

Studies show that about 95% of people who have received both doses of the vaccine, are protected against getting COVID-19 symptoms.

Current research shows that once you are fully vaccinated you are far less likely to fall seriously ill and less likely to transmit the virus to others.

Getting two doses of the Pfizer vaccine means you are much less likely to catch COVID-19.
As with any vaccine, the Pfizer vaccine may not fully protect everyone who gets it. But if you do catch COVID-19, the vaccine will give you a high degree of protection from serious illness. This means you could have no COVID-19 symptoms, or will have much fewer, milder symptoms, and recover faster. Find more information here.

We know it is a lot harder for the virus to spread between people who are vaccinated. To be safe, we must assume there is still a risk of transmission. This is why it is important to keep up good hygiene practices and get tested if you have COVID-19 symptoms.

Safety of the vaccine

It took a global effort to create the COVID-19 vaccines. But we didn’t start from scratch. Similar research into another virus (known as SARS) was already underway.

Other things helped.

  • Large amounts of funding were invested in research and manufacturing.
  • New technology was available.
  • Researchers, scientists and manufacturers around the world worked together.

As a result, the vaccines could be made faster, while still making sure they went through all the safety checks.

In Aotearoa, vaccines are assessed by New Zealand's Medicines and Medical Devices Safety Authority (Medsafe). Medsafe is part of the Ministry of Health.

Medsafe will only approve a vaccine for use in Aotearoa once it is confident that it meets national and international standards for important features like vaccine quality and safety.

There is only a tiny percentage of the population who shouldn't have the Pfizer vaccine and these are people who will have severe allergic reactions to it.  You are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated if you have a condition like cancer, diabetes, kidney disease or heart disease. This is because if you catch COVID-19, you are more likely to get seriously ill and end up in hospital. You may want to talk this through with your doctor. Find answers to more questions around the vaccine and other medical conditions here.

Based on how the vaccine works, experts believe it is as safe for hapū Māmā as it is for everyone else. This is because the Pfizer vaccine does not contain the live virus so it can’t give you or pēpi COVID-19.

If you’re hapū, you can get the COVID-19 vaccine at any stage of your pregnancy.

Breastfeeding Māmā can receive COVID-19 vaccines. There are no safety concerns for breastfeeding wāhine or their pēpi. Vaccinating during pregnancy may also help protect your pēpi as there’s evidence that infants can get antibodies to the virus through cord blood and breast milk.

If you are planning to be hapū, you can still receive COVID-19 vaccines.

If you have any questions about COVID-19 vaccines and pregnancy or breastfeeding, speak to your midwife or doctor.

Getting COVID-19

We're learning more about the long-term health impacts of COVID-19, often called 'long COVID'. Most people who have had it return to normal health. But others have experienced a range of symptoms lasting weeks or months. Some are mild and some are disabling.  Find out more here. 

 If you catch COVID-19 when you’re pregnant, you are more likely to become very unwell.

If you’re not vaccinated, you are more likely to be admitted to the intensive care unit – particularly with the Delta variant.

There are also increased risks for babies. Babies are five times more likely to be born prematurely and require neonatal intensive care.  Find out more here. 

No, people across all age groups are getting sick and have been hospitalised. Daily updates on case numbers and hospitalisations can be found here. 

The virus that causes COVID-19 has mutated (changed) over time, creating new variants. Delta is now the most common variant across the world. Delta spreads and infects people more easily and may cause people to get more serious illnesses. 

This variant of COVID-19 was identified in mid-November and has spread rapidly around the world. Early evidence is that it spreads more easily than Delta, but research is still underway. Read more here.

Getting vaccinated

  • You will be asked to provide your details and to give consent.
  • A fully trained vaccinator will give you the vaccine in your upper arm.
  • You will need to stay for 15 minutes after being vaccinated.
  • Some mild side effects are common and are a sign your body is learning to fight the virus.  Visit the Unite Against COVID-19 website for further information.
  • Your second vaccination should happen three weeks after your first dose or as soon as possible after that. You can book an appointment  or there are lots of places where you can get vaccinated without one.
  •   Find a vaccination centre near you here.
  • Both does of the vaccine are FREE.
  • Being fully vaccinated (two doses) will help protect you and your whānau from COVID-19.

All vaccines can have some side effects. These side effects are usually mild and only last for a few days.

Common side effects can include:

  • pain at the injection site
  • a headache
  • feeling tired or fatigued
  • muscle aches
  • feeling generally unwell
  • chills
  • fever
  • joint pain
  • nausea.

 These are signs that the vaccine is working.

Globally, millions of people have already received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with an extremely small number of serious reactions.

If you have any questions or worries after your vaccinations, contact your doctor or health provider.

For more info on side effects visit

Anyone aged 5 and can get a COVID-19 vaccine now. Booster shots are only available for adults 18 years and over. 

In Aotearoa, most people can choose if they want to have the COVID-19 vaccine. But there will be some places or events that only people who are vaccinated can go.

In some jobs, including those at the border and in the health and educations sectors, employees will have to be vaccinated. Other employers may also require workers to be vaccinated over time.

You can get a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine if it has been six months since your second dose and you are aged 18 or over.  From early January, you will be able to get the booster four months after your second dose if you are aged 18 or over.  Boosters are strongly recommended for anyone 18 years or over who has had their second dose.  Read more here

If you are 18 years of age or older, you can get the AstraZeneca vaccine. Pfizer remains the preferred choice of vaccine for hapū māmā. Read more about AstraZeneca here.

Any other pātai?

If you have a question that isn't answered here, please enter it below or phone 0800 28 29 26 to have a kōrero with someone about the vaccine. You can ask for a Māori advisor.  

Ngā mihi - we will update our FAQ section regularly.
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