January 2022

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When 11-year-old Evelyn Colgate got her first Covid-19 vaccination on Monday, her whānau were not just there to hold her hand – they got jabbed as well.

The Oakura School student, her mum Biance Ruakere and “nanny” Anne Ruakere, 77, made the first day that children aged between 5-11 could get vaccinated into a family affair.

Across Taranaki, about 200 children had the jab on Monday, with about 800 other vaccinations carried out.

The Taranaki District Health Board said it was pleased with the numbers, which it described as “encouraging”.

Evelyn got her first jab, and her mum and nanny got their booster shots, at Māori heathcare provider Tui Ora in New Plymouth.

“I didn’t even really notice it happening,” Evelyn said.

Mum Bianca added: “We were quite keen for her to be first through the doors. And it was just a nice opportunity.”

The “health conscious whānau” were in a rush to get Evelyn vaccinated – and not only because Bianca works for Tui Ora and Anne is a former registered nurse.

When Evelyn was a baby she contracted strep pneumonia, which was “near fatal” as it resulted in holes in her lungs.

Now, whenever she gets respiratory illnesses she has to have a scan “because they can’t tell what's infection, and what's scar tissue”, Bianca said.

The family are also planning a trip to the UK to see Evelyn’s other grandparents, who are in their 80s, and Bianca wanted to make sure her daughter was protected for the trip.

“We’ve been really holding out for this [child vaccinations] to happen.”

“I want to have my vaccine, so I can visit nanny and grandad in England this year,” Evelyn added. “I haven’t seen them for two years because it’s been hard to go anywhere.”

For Anne, getting her booster was a simple decision – after decades as a registered nurse she said she had seen the benefits of vaccinations.

“When I worked as a ward nurse I saw a baby with whooping cough. It was terrible to witness for the parents and the child,” she said.

“You still hear of occasional whooping cough, but not a lot of it.”

She said Tuberculosis is something she used to see, but not any more.

“Thankfully, immunisations give us an opportunity to avoid the worst impacts of these diseases.”

Tui Ora's clinical nurse leader, Robyn Taylor, was working in the clinic in the morning and gave the family their jabs.

“It's been busy, it's been good – mostly kids," Taylor said. “We’re encouraging whānau to bring their tamariki in.”

Taylor had seen more than 20 children through before midday and expected the numbers would stay steady as “kids have been affected more than adults” with Covid-19 in Taranaki.

Rachel Court, Taranaki Covid-19 vaccination planner, said it had been a busy day.

“As of 4:30pm, almost 1,000 vaccinations have been given across Taranaki and around 200 of those have been in the 5-11-year-old age bracket.

“This is an encouraging first day, but it’s only the beginning and our long-term planning is under way with our Māori health-providers Ngaruahine, Ngāti Ruanui and Tui Ora to make sure there is equitable access to Covid-19 vaccinations right across the region.

Nationally, about 476,000 children are now eligible to get the jab after the Government approved the paediatric version of the Pfizer vaccine in December(external link). The number includes about 100,000 Māori youngsters.

For under 12-year-olds the vaccine is specially formulated with a lower dose and a smaller volume of the f(external link)ormula given to adults.

Two doses will be given to children(external link), with at least an eight-week gap in between the first and second dose.

The interval to receive the second dose can be shortened to three weeks (21 days) if needed – such as if the child is set to being an immune suppression treatment.

The child vaccine roll-out comes just before primary and secondary school restarts for the year.

Children vaccines, as well as boosters and first and second jabs, are available all over Taranaki and while people are asked to book a spot, they can also walk in.

Appointments can be booked online at Book My Vaccine(external link), or by calling the Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 28 29 26.

Reproduced with permission from Stuff article by Jane Matthews, published January 18th , 2022

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