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Vaccination

COVID-19 vaccination information

Late updated: 12 May 2022.

Almost everyone from 5 years old can be vaccinated against COVID-19 in Aotearoa. There are three vaccine options for adults–Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Novavax. There is one type of vaccine for Tamariki–child dose of Pfizer. With the Omicron variant in the community it is advisable for adults to receive a Booster dose of vaccine.

Also below are some materials developed in late 2021 to encourage Rangatahi vaccinations, and some Regional Information.

Please note–the information below is intended to provide basic information to whānau and is not intended to replace information from health experts.

Pfizer

Is the vaccine safe, given it was developed so quickly?

The vaccine is safe to use. No short cuts were taken during the development of the vaccine. Over 50% of the world’s population have now received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and nearly 8.5 billion doses having been administered.

Can the Pfizer vaccine give me COVID-19 or affect my DNA?

No. It will not give you COVID-19 and will not affect your DNA or genes. It does not contain any live, dead or deactivated virus.

Who can get vaccinated?

Everyone in Aotearoa who is over 5 years old can now be vaccinated.  See below for information about tamariki vaccination.

Will the vaccine have long-term side effects?

Serious side effects are very rare. Side effects usually happen within a few weeks of getting a vaccine. For this reason, medical regulators like Medsafe NZ look carefully at the first few months of safety data before approving new vaccines. More data is being received on an ongoing basis from vaccine recipients across the world, giving us confidence that COVID-19 vaccines are safe. The safety of the vaccine will continue to be monitored.

Will the vaccine affect my fertility?

There is no evidence to suggest vaccination can have an impact on fertility. The Pfizer vaccine uses mRNA which does not enter the nucleus of cells, which is where your DNA is.

Can I get other vaccinations before or after I get the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccination?

All vaccines (except the shingles vaccine) can now be given at the same time or immediately before or after the COVID-19 vaccine.

Will the Pfizer vaccine be effective against new strains of the virus?

The Ministry of Health is continually evaluating data from other countries about how effective the vaccine. Current evidence shows that two doses of the Pfizer vaccine are still effective in preventing severe disease in people with the Delta variant of COVID-19.

Early studies about the effectiveness of the vaccine against the Omicron variant show it may be less effective at stopping people from catching the variant. However, it is still good protection against serious illness and hospitalisation. Evidence is still being monitored.

Can I get a vaccine if I’m pregnant?

You can get a COVID-19 vaccine at any stage of pregnancy. This is important because people who are pregnant can become very sick if they get COVID-19.

Can I breastfeed my pēpi once I’ve had my vaccine?

The New Zealand Government supports the use of the approved vaccine while breastfeeding. Breastfeeding wāhine do not need to stop breastfeeding to receive the vaccine.

I’m young/fit/healthy. If I get the virus it’s not going to kill me; why should I get vaccinated?

Vaccination is about protecting our whole community, including kaumatua, friends who get sick easily, whānau with conditions that make them more likely to die from COVID-19, and our essential workers who have to keep working no matter how much COVID-19 is in the community. Getting vaccinated means you are less likely to pass on COVID-19, so getting vaccinated is good for everyone.

Can I get vaccinated if I’ve already had COVID-19?

Yes, health experts have advised to wait 3 months after recovery before getting a COVID-19 vaccination.

How many doses do I need?

Two doses of the Pfizer vaccine at least 3 weeks apart are required for adequate protection. A booster dose 3 months after your second dose is also advised.

Can severely immunocompromised people still receive the vaccine?

People who are severely immunocompromised may not produce a sufficient immune response after two doses of the Pfizer vaccine therefore a third primary dose may be beneficial in some people to provide strong protection against hospitalisation. Third doses need to be prescribed by your whānau doctor and must be at least 8 weeks after the second dose.

It is also recommended that people who are immunocompromised receive a booster dose 3 months after receiving their third primary dose.

AstraZeneca

What is it and how is it different from the Pfizer vaccine?

AstraZeneca is an alternative COVID-19 vaccine approved by Medsafe for use in Aotearoa. The AstraZeneca vaccine uses DNA (instead of mRNA which the Pfizer vaccine uses) to stimulate the immune system to make antibodies which help to fight the virus if you become infected.

How do we know the AstraZeneca vaccine is safe?

Similar to the Pfizer vaccine, the AstraZeneca vaccine has been reviewed thoroughly by Medsafe looking at data from overseas to make sure it is safe to use in Aotearoa.

Who can get the AstraZeneca vaccine?

It is available for people over 18 years of age who are hesitant to get the Pfizer vaccine but still want to be vaccinated. It is also available for people who have been advised against receiving a second Pfizer dose due to a severe reaction to the first dose.

Can I get the AstraZeneca vaccine if I’m pregnant?

No. At this stage, there is not enough evidence on the use of AstraZeneca in pregnant women. If you are pregnant, the Pfizer vaccine is still the first choice to provide protection against COVID-19.

Are there any reasons I should not receive this vaccine?

Yes. You should not receive AstraZeneca if:

  • You have had a severe allergic reaction to this vaccine or any of its ingredients.
  • You have had capillary leak syndrome, a condition causing fluid leakage from blood vessels
  • You have experienced a major blood clot (thrombosis) in combination with low blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) after any COVID-19 vaccine.

Things to let your vaccinator know:

  • If you have had a major blood clot or low platelets in the past
  • You have an autoimmune condition that means you are more likely to have a clot
  • You’re pregnant.

How can I get the AstraZeneca vaccine?

The AstraZeneca vaccine is only available at a limited number of sites in Waitaha (Canterbury). You can book your appointment through bookmyvaccine.nz or through the COVID Vaccination Healthline 0800 28 29 26.

Common side effects

You may experience mild side effects 1-2 days after getting your vaccination. If you are worried, contact your whānau doctor, or call the COVID-19 Healthline free on 0800 358 5453.

Common side effects within the first 48 hours:

  •  Pain, tenderness, redness or swelling at the injection site
  • Fatigue (feeling tired)
  • Headache
  • Sore muscles
  • Joint pain
  • Fever (feeling hot, cold or shivery)
  • Chills

Things that may help:

  •  Place a cold, wet cloth or ice pack where the injection was given. Leave it on for a short time.
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids.
  • Use paracetamol or ibuprofen. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

 

Novavax

The Novavax COVID-19 vaccine (Nuvaxovid) is for adults aged 18 and above who wish to have a different COVID-19 vaccine option – it’s free.

Novavax requires two doses to be considered fully vaccinated. A three-week gap is recommended between the first and second dose. Novavax is not approved as a booster vaccine at this time.

Novavax is the first protein-based COVID-19 vaccine to be approved for use in New Zealand and helps prevent you from getting infected and having COVID-19 symptoms, or severe illness.

The Novavax vaccine has been thoroughly assessed for safety by our own Medsafe experts.

Medsafe only grants consent for using a vaccine in Aotearoa once they’re satisfied the international evidence shows the benefits outweigh the risks.

The Pfizer vaccine remains the preferred COVID-19 vaccine for use in New Zealand, reflecting its excellent safety and effectiveness profile.

Novavax factsheet: What you need to know (PDF, 321 KB)

You will require a prescription for your second dose if your first dose was not Novavax.

You can get a prescription at the vaccinating Novavax clinic or prior to your appointment with your preferred GP. Visits to a GP for a Novavax prescription are free.

You can book your Novavax dose online through BookMyVaccine.nz or by calling the COVID Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26.

Can I get the Novavax vaccine if I’m pregnant?

There is currently insufficient data on Novavax to recommend it during pregnancy.

The Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine is the preferred option for someone who is pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or breastfeeding.

Common side effects

As with any vaccine, you may have some temporary side effects after receiving Novavax.

Common side effects after Novavax include:

  • injection site pain or tenderness
  • tiredness
  • headache
  • muscle or joint pain
  • generally feeling unwell
  • nausea or vomiting.

Some people also experience a rise in their blood pressure after the vaccine. Most side effects are mild and go away within a few days.

Rare side effects

The main reported rare but serious side effect after Novavax is severe allergic reaction (e.g. anaphylaxis). These reactions usually occur soon after you’ve had your vaccine, which is why you need to wait at least 15 minutes. If you do have a serious allergic reaction, vaccinators are trained to manage these.

It’s recommended that you do not have Novavax if you have had a severe allergic reaction (e.g. anaphylaxis) to a previous dose of the vaccine or to any component of the vaccine.


Be a doer! Karawhiua – Discover how being vaccinated is the best way to protect our whānau and communities.

Tamariki

Tamariki aged 5 to 11 can be immunised against COVID-19, with the consent of their parent or guardian. The vaccine is free.

It’s a good idea to book an appointment because not all clinics and pharmacies are set up for tamariki immunisation. Book online at: https://bookmyvaccine.covid19.health.nz

Find out if your doctor of pharmacy offers the service: https://www.healthpoint.co.nz/covid-19-vaccination/

 

What are the benefits of immunising tamariki against COVID-19?

While tamariki appear to be at much lower risk of becoming severely unwell with COVID-19 compared to adults, some tamariki still require hospitalisation and can develop complications like long COVID or a rare complication known as Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome (MIS-C) that can require intensive care or be fatal.

Getting immunised against COVID-19 still provides the best protection for tamariki.  As it is with adults, vaccination against COVID-19 reduces the chance of tamariki developing  more severe infections, complications or need for hospitalisation. The benefits are likely to be greatest for those tamariki who already have pre-existing illnesses like asthma. Vaccination can also decrease the likelihood of tamariki spreading the virus to others around them.

Immunisation is a normal part of childhood. In Aotearoa me Te Waipounamu, children get free vaccinations against 12 diseases, including whooping cough (pertussis), measles and polio. This vaccine helps protect tamariki from becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, and helps to prevent the virus spreading.

Tamariki are taonga so it’s understandable that parents and care-givers want to be sure the vaccination is safe. Talk to your trust health professional.

Statistics show that the Māori population is younger overall with 33% of Māori aged less than 15 years. Prioritised immunisation for our tamariki is helping to protect the future of our iwi.

Is this vaccine safe for tamariki?

The Pfizer vaccine for 5 to 11-year-olds has been through clinical trials with tamariki in this age group. It has gone through the same rigorous approval processes as other routine childhood vaccines. No clinical trials were skipped and no corners were cut in the testing of its safety.

In Aotearoa me Te Waipounamu, Medsafe has granted provisional approval of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 years old. Medsafe only grants approval for a vaccine or medicine once it is satisfied that it has met internationally-agreed criteria for quality, safety and efficacy.

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

What are the side effects?

As with any immunisation, your child is 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. Encouraging rest and offering plenty of fluids will help.

Severe reactions to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are very rare and usually occur straight away after the vaccination. For this reason, you and your child will be put in an observation area for monitoring by clinical staff to ensure they receive any medical treatment if this occurs.

If you notice your child experiencing any severe symptoms let clinical staff know immediately. If you are not at a vaccination site, call 111 immediately.

How is the vaccine administered to tamariki?

The vaccine used for tamariki is a children’s version of the Pfizer vaccine, with a lower dose (about 1/3 of the dose for people aged 12 and over) and smaller volume. The smaller dose is just as effective and means they get the same protection but that the needles can be slightly smaller and reduces chances that tamariki will experience side effects.

Tamariki need two doses of the vaccine to be fully protected. It is currently recommended that these are at least 8 weeks apart.

How do I give my consent?

A parent, caregiver or legal guardian will need to accompany your tamariki to their appointment(s) and will need to provide consent. Questions are welcome at the appointment.

What can I do to prepare my tamariki for vaccination?

  1. Provide encouragement to help your tamariki feel relaxed.
  2. Make sure they have had something to eat and drink beforehand.
  3. Tamariki should wear a top that makes it easy to see and access their upper arm.

You are welcome to take something to the appointment that will help to distract tamariki, like a soft toy or phone.

Please note – If your tamariki have had previous reactions to immunisations, speak up! Let your vaccinator know, speak to your whānau doctor prior to the appointment, or talk to a trained advisor on the COVID-19 Vaccination Healthline – 0800 28 29 26.

Below are two fun COVID-19 activities for tamariki that include some Te Reo–Ta Pikitia (colouring in) and Kimi Kupu (word search). Click on them to open the PDFs.

Colouring in

Word finder

What are the side effects?

As with any immunisation, there can be side effects. Thankfully  these are usually only mild, short-lived and usually get better on their own.

Like most injections, it is not uncommon for children to develop tenderness at the injection site. Other reactions can include: dizziness or fainting just after the injection, developing a fever or headache, or feeling generally unwell with body aches and  fatigue (tired). Less commonly, some tamariki may feel nauseous (feeling sick), or develop vomiting or diarrhoea.  Encouraging rest and offering plenty of fluids or simple pain relief like paracetamol can help.

Severe reactions to the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine are very rare. Anaphylaxis is a severe allergic reaction, which usually occurs within minutes but is easily managed medically. For this reason, you and your child will be closely monitored in an observation area by clinical staff following your vaccination to ensure easy access to medical treatment in the unlikely event that this did occur.

If you notice your child experiencing any side effects let clinical staff know immediately. If you are not at a vaccination site call 111.

What about tamariki with disabilities?

The disability team is available Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm. They will support your whānau and can book an appointment for you. They can answer any questions you may have about your child’s needs including accessibility, free transport options, or any effects the vaccine may have on your child.

For more information and links to research, visit www.health.govt.nz/CovidVaccineKids ,   Karawhiua, and https://covid19.govt.nz/

Have questions about the vaccine? Talk to a trained advisor on the COVID-19 Vaccination Healthline – 0800 28 29 26 – between 8am–8pm, 7 days a week. You can press “1”to request an advisor from their Māori team.

Booster

Anyone 18 years or older who had their second vaccination at least three months ago can get a ‘booster’ shot of vaccine. Rangatahi aged 16 and 17 can get a booster at least six months after their first two doses. A booster provides better protection against the Omicron variant of the virus than the initial two doses. It reduces the likelihood of serious illness from COVID-19 and reduces the likelihood of spreading the virus to other people.

You can book your booster here. You can call the COVID-19 Vaccination Healthline on 0800 28 29 26 (8am to 8pm, 7 days a week). You can press 1 to talk to an advisor in their Māori team. You can book for yourself, someone else in your whānau who might need help, or book in as a whānau group. The advisor can help find the clinic nearby which best suits your needs.

With the Omicron variant at our doorstep, getting a booster is an important precaution.
   

(Select the images above and then right click to save)

Rangatahi

These materials were created with rōpū rangatahi for rangatahi to encourage vaccination against COVID-19. You’re welcome to share and use them. Me kura takahi puni.

To copy the files, right click on the image and ‘save as’.

Instagram tile - Rangatahi campaign - Koutou

Instagram tile – Rangatahi campaign – Koutou

 

Facebook tile - Rangatahi campaign - Koutou

 

Regional Information

Please refer to the region in which you live for the information most relevant to you and your whānau. Each district health board (DHB) across the country is managing the programme in its rohe, so the information differs from region to region.

North Island

South Island

Sources: United Against COVID-19 website and the Ministry of Health website