If you are keen to understand young people—what motivates, frustrates, exhilarates and preoccupies them—then Canberra…
Canberrans were so keen to do their bit to help protect everyone from COVID-19 that we were not only the fastest city to get vaccinated in Australia but are also now one of the most vaccinated cities in the world.
But when it comes to those same people getting their kids vaccinated, a few of us are a bit more reluctant.
Currently, the Moderna (Spikevax) and Pfizer (Comirnaty) COVID-19 vaccines are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for children aged 12 and over, with two doses needed for the best immune response against the virus. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is also considering vaccines for children aged 5-11.
According to research commissioned by ACT Government with a behavioural insights company, it was found that some parents—particularly mothers—who are vaccinated against COVID-19 are hesitant to vaccinate their children.
It also showed that most parents in the study who were not fully vaccinated say they ‘definitely won’t get their children vaccinated’, with a smaller group of fully vaccinated parents also currently unsure that they’ll get their children vaccinated.
Kirk Zwangobani is a teacher at UCSSC Lake Ginninderra College, and a father. Like most people, he had questions around the COVID vaccine initially. He ultimately got vaccinated to not only protect himself, but those around him.
“I thought, the position I’m in as a teacher, it just sends a good message. But I’ve also had to think about my own family. I have several children, including the youngest who just turned one year old. That weighed heavily on my mind in terms of necessity to get vaccinated, and who else in my family should get it too,” he says.
Kirk’s oldest daughter is 24, and she made the personal decision to get AstraZeneca before Pfizer was available for her age group. When his two teens, Arantxa and Makhosi (pictured), recently became eligible for vaccines, he admits to having some concerns.
“As a parent, I was probably a bit more cautious and a bit more concerned. Honestly, I just wanted to know a little bit more. I wanted to at least have my head across it in terms of if there was a reaction, what could it look like?” he says.
Kirk says their family chatted about it at home and discussed it with extended family members too. Overall, everyone was optimistic about what being vaccinated would mean for them, and others.
“We thought this is something that we need to do because we need to keep others safe, and it will come with freedoms for us. It also just lends itself to the fact that if we do it, and other people do it, then we’re also working collectively to make the environment better for everybody,” he says.
Arantxa, who is 16, says she was quite keen to get vaccinated. She says being named as a close contact and having to self-isolate motivated her even more.
“It made me feel like I was doing my part in keeping society safe by getting vaccinated. I think everyone will have to do it eventually. It’s a key thing to be able to keep Canberra low on case numbers, and the best way to avoid getting COVID-19 as well,” she says.
“I was a close contact because there was a case at my school. I had to self-isolate for five days, and I actually really struggled within two or three days. You feel very isolated from everyone else. You can’t have dinner with your family and you can’t really do anything.
“I dance outside of school as well and we did online Zoom classes during lockdown, and I couldn’t do that either whilst quarantined. So I struggled quite a lot with that. I can’t imagine doing anything like that again.”
Arantxa was vaccinated alongside her 14-year-old brother Makhosi, and they’re both now fully vaccinated.
Medical professionals say it’s completely normal for parents to feel protective of their children and to have plenty of questions about what’s best for them.
Dr Tabinda Bajwa, GP at Wentworth Avenue Family Practice in Kingston, says the best thing to do if you are uncertain is to speak to your GP or a health care provider at any COVID-19 vaccine clinic.
“We are more than happy to help answer your questions, including what to expect, possible side effects and any other concerns you may have,” she says.
“There are lots of myths around COVID-19 vaccines. GPs like myself can help you make an informed decision based on accurate advice.”
Dr Bajwa says she is vaccinated to protect herself, her family, her loved ones, and your loved ones. “I wouldn’t have had it or provided it to my family unless I knew it was safe and effective,” she says.
If they’re unvaccinated, you can book in your child aged 12+ for their COVID-19 vaccine at a GP or ACT Government clinic for Pfizer (Comirnaty), or at a pharmacy for Moderna (Spikevax).
And, if you or your child is feeling nervous or anxious on the day of vaccination, be assured that the staff administering COVID-19 vaccines are staff are kind, friendly and can provide you with support during your appointment.
The ACT Government’s Access and Sensory COVID-19 vaccine clinic is also available for teens who may need extra support or who have needle phobias.
It’s preferred that younger people aged 12-15 attend their vaccination appointments with a parent or guardian. This is to make sure that consent can be given for the vaccine, and, where questions and advice given is, that the information is clearly understood.
Young people attending a vaccination appointment on their own can also bring a consent form with them that is already read and signed by their parent or guardian. The consent form is available on the Australian Government Department of Health website.
As borders open, restrictions ease and we return to a level of ‘normalcy’ it is important that we continue to consider how we can protect our children and ourselves from becoming severely unwell from COVID-19. For the majority of people, vaccination is and continues to be the most important form of protection against COVID.
Here are some things to consider when deciding if your child (aged 12+) should get a COVID-19 vaccination:
- COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective. Getting vaccinated doesn’t just protect against severe illness from COVID-19, it can prevent longer-term health complications from the disease and reduce the chance of spreading the virus to others.
- Serious side effects from COVID-19 vaccines are extremely rare. Mild side effects 1 to 2 days after getting a COVID-19 vaccination is normal and is a sign that their body is learning to fight the virus.
- Having your child vaccinated against COVID-19 can help restore a more normal life for them, and you. Getting vaccinated will prevent the need for future lockdowns and other life disruptions. It will keep children in school and participating in the things they enjoy.
- It’s worth starting a conversation with your child about getting vaccinated, and listening to their response. Explain honestly and in an age-appropriate way, what you know about the COVID-19 vaccine, and ask them how they feel about getting vaccinated.
- Speak to a GP or another trusted health care professional so you can ask questions and have your concerns addressed. Bring your child along if they’d like to ask questions too.