17 Dec 2021

Schools asked to help with vaccinations for under-12s

8:41 pm on 17 December 2021

Primary and intermediate schools could be welcoming children back to class with a Covid vaccination next year.

A 7 year-old child holds a sticker she received after getting the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine at the Child Health Associates office in Novi, Michigan on November 3, 2021.

Photo: AFP / Jeff Kowalsky

Principals say they have been asked to consider being part of the drive to immunise children between the ages of five and 11 against the virus.

Medsafe provisionally approved the Pfizer vaccine for that age group earlier this week.

Principals Federation president-elect Cherie Taylor-Patel said some schools had already been asked to consider helping with covid vaccinations for their pupils at the start of 2022.

She said it was easier for families to get vaccinations at locations in their community.

"One of the easiest places for them could be schools and certainly in the decile 1-4 schools around Auckland, principals have had a first communication just inviting them to be part of the process and to start conversations about what that could look like for the beginning of next year," she said.

Taylor-Patel said the pandemic had created a lot of extra work for schools but most would be happy to help with vaccinations for their pupils.

She said schools that did host vaccinations will take care to ensure children were not upset, ideally by ensuring parents were present.

"You don't want students to be really anxious, you don't to have any traumatic experiences and I think if you did have students who were upset you just wouldn't go ahead," she said.

Auckland Primary Principals Association president Stephen Lethbridge said intermediate schools already hosted other vaccinations and he expected most primary and intermediate schools would agree to help with Covid shots.

"What it means for us as schools is the contacts we have if we have positive cases at school, the contacts become a little less and that means that there's less isolation, less disruption for schools, so we only see this as a positive outcome," he said.

He said schools would encourage families to vaccinate their children but there was no vaccine mandate for school pupils - they could attend classes regardless of whether they were vaccinated.

"We understand and acknowledge that this is a family's right to choose here. We would be encouraging because the science of vaccination is quite clear but again no child will ever be excluded or left out because of their vaccination status," he said.

Lethbridge said schools had been told vaccinations for under-12s could be available in January.

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