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.

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. For most tamariki, the doses should be at least eight weeks apart.

At this time, there is no vaccine available for children under 5.

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 Healthline 0800 28 29 26. For an individual booking, go online to www.BookMyVaccine.  Some walk-in or drive-through centres are also offering tamariki immunisations.  The number of centres offering immunisations for tamariki will increase over the coming weeks.  

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

Why vaccinate

Whānau are getting vaccinated because it provides the most effective protection against COVID-19.

The higher our vaccination rates, the harder it is for the virus to spread. High vaccination rates 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 protect people in our community who can’t get immunised.

Evidence currently shows the effectiveness of 2 doses of the Pfizer vaccine against illness due to Delta is about 88%, and the protection against hospitalisation due to Delta is about 96%. Data is emerging that a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine provides better protection against the Omicron variant. While 2 doses provide some protection against severe disease from Omicron, a booster is likely to offer greater protection against passing COVID-19 to others, and reduce the chance of more serious illness.

Getting vaccinated means you are far less likely to get really sick and have to go to hospital if you catch COVID-19. You are also less likely to pass COVID-19 on to other people.  While two doses provide some protection against Omicron, a booster is likely offer greater protection by reducing the chance of more serious infection and the risk of passing it to others. 

Data is emerging that a booster shot provides better protection against the Omicron variant. While two doses provide some protection against severe illness from Omicron, a booster is likely to offer greater protection against passing COVID-19 to others and reduces the likelihood  of becoming seriously ill and requiring hospitalisation. Read more about getting a vaccine booster on the Unite Against COVID-19 website.

It is harder for the virus to spread between people who are vaccinated, but it can happen.  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. These are people who would have severe allergic reactions to it. 

If you have cancer, diabetes, kidney disease or heart disease, you are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated. This is because, if you catch COVID-19, you are more likely to get seriously ill and end up in hospital.

You should talk about this with a trusted source of information, such as your doctor or hauora provider.

You can read answers to frequently asked questions about different health circumstances on the Ministry of Health website. 

Based on how the vaccine works, experts believe it is as safe for those who are hapū 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 your pēpi COVID-19.

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

If you're breastfeeding, you can receive COVID-19 vaccines. There are no safety concerns for you or your 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.

Read more here

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, or types, of COVID-19. Before Omicron arrived in Aotearoa, Delta was the most common variant.

Omicron is now the most common form of COVID-19 in many countries, including Aotearoa. It spreads more easily than Delta and may cause similar symptoms but does not result in as many people being hospitalised. Overseas however, it has still resulted in higher overall hospitalisation rates because more people have it. It can still cause severe illness or death, especially in people with underlying health conditions. 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.
  • The vaccine and booster shots are free.
  • 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 about common side effects.

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 several 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.

Find more info on side effects here

Anyone aged 5 and over can get a COVID-19 vaccine. You need to be aged 16 or over to get a booster shot. 

Anyone 16 or over can get a booster shot three months after their second dose. 

In Aotearoa, most people can choose if they want to have the COVID-19 vaccine. However in some jobs, including those at the border and in the health and education sectors, workers must be vaccinated. Other employers may also require their staff to be vaccinated. There are also be some places that only people who are vaccinated can go.

You can get a booster dose of the Pfizer vaccine if it has been three months since your second dose and you are aged 16 or over. Read more here

If you are 18 or older, you can get the AstraZeneca or Novovax vaccine.

You can read more about the alternative vaccines below:

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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