Pfizer Vaccine 5 – 11 years – FAQ

Pfizer Vaccine 5 – 11 years – FAQ

20.02.21
Below are common questions presented to Public Health. If you have any unanswered questions please email Health.Promotion@gha.gi. Note, the risk-benefit strongly in favour of vaccination for almost all groups is less clear-cut for children. Young people and their parents will need to understand potential benefits, potential side effects and the balance between them prior to the decision to proceed with COVID-19 vaccination.

Why are you offering a COVID-19 vaccination to 5 -11 year olds?

In younger children COVID-19 infection results in milder illness and we know now that long COVID is less common than we initially feared. Studies have been looking at what the benefits are of vaccines in this age group taking into account that illness is usually mild.

For children in this age group who have long term conditions such as heart problems or lung problems, we know that there is a benefit from vaccination; preventing them being admitted to hospital as a result of COVID infection.

For every million doses of the vaccine given to this age group 1,265 hospital admissions and 105 intensive care admissions will be prevented. We are a much smaller population here and we would not expect this number of admissions to hospital but this gives an indication of the protection that the vaccine provides this specific group.

What we do know is that 5-11 year olds can carry the virus and pass this onto household and social contacts. If the household contacts have a long term illness or are elderly then there is a risk that this younger age group could pass on infections to the wider community. This is a specific consideration for Gibraltar where we have a very close-knit community.

We also know that some children are missing school as a result of testing positive for COVID-19.

To try reduce the amount of virus we have still circulating in our community, and the chances of spread to those most vulnerable, we are offering vaccinations to all 5 – 11 year olds.

Why are we offering the vaccine to all healthy 5-11 year olds in Gibraltar when the UK is not?

In the UK they are offering vaccines to this age group only to those who have an illness that puts them at risk or if they are a household contact of someone whose immune system does not work very well.

One of the strengths in Gibraltar is how close our families are; and how much contact young children have for example with grandparents. As we grow older, our immune system may not work as well as before. Knowing how connected our population is we would like to offer this vaccine to all children aged 5-11 years old. 

Is the vaccine safe?

The Director of Public Health in Gibraltar has reviewed the global safety data and concluded that we would like to offer the COVID-19 vaccine to all children aged 5-11 years old.

Around 8 million COVID-19 vaccines have now been given to this age group in the United States alone. Younger children do tend to have more localised effects resulting from the vaccine such as a sore arm, swelling at the injection site and fevers. But all of these side effects do not last long.

Monitoring of side effects continues through the Yellow Card system and we will continue to report suspected side effects through this; GHA GPs and healthcare professionals do this automatically when required, however you can also report these yourself via the website.

Why should my child have this vaccine?

We are encouraging families to read more about the benefits of this vaccine and reach a decision through informed consent. We are not forcing anyone to have this vaccine.

The Director of Public Health recommends this vaccine because it means that vaccinated children are less likely to pass on COVID infection to individuals whose immune systems may not work as well and if the child has an underlying health condition this protects them against the serious consequences of disease resulting in hospitalisations.

How and where will this vaccine be given?

The vaccine will be offered in 2 smaller doses, with a minimum of 21 days apart to this age group (as per Green Book directive).

The children’s vaccine programme will be delivered at the Primary Care Centre, next to St Bernard’s Hospital. Clinics will run between 14:00hrs and 18:00hrs on weekdays.

Following administration of the vaccine, children will be required to wait for 10 minutes; this is to ensure they feel well before going home. For any queries regarding the vaccination administration process, please contact the team on 200 66966.

What are the side effects from being vaccinated in this age group?

The most common side effect being reported is having a sore arm at the injections site that normally gets better after a few days.

In the trials that have been running, the most frequently reported wider reactions in participants were tiredness, headache, muscle aches, chills, joint pain and a raised temperature. These symptoms were usually mild to moderate and resolved within a few days after vaccination. If required, treatment with paracetamol-containing products can be used.

Should I be concerned about this vaccine and fertility?

COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for everyone 5 years of age and older, including people who are trying to get pregnant now or might become pregnant in the future, as well as their partners.

There is currently no evidence shows that any COVID-19 vaccines cause fertility problems in women or men.

Can anyone not have the vaccine?

The vaccines do not contain any living organism and are safe for the vast majority of people. A small number of people may be ineligible for vaccination including people who have severe allergic reactions to medicines or vaccines.

If my child has had COVID-19 do they still require vaccination?

There is no evidence of any safety concerns from vaccinating individuals with a past history of COVID-19 infection, or with detectable COVID-19 antibody.

Your child may still be vaccinated, but this must be 4 weeks from previous COVID-19 infection (from date of onset of symptoms or date of positive swab). The immunity people get from being vaccinated after having a natural infection is consistently very strong. Getting vaccinated even if you have had COVID-19 means you are more likely to be protected for longer.

Can you catch Covid-19 from the vaccine?

No you cannot catch Covid-19 from the vaccine. But it is possible to have caught Covid-19 in the few days before vaccination and not realise until after you have been vaccinated. It takes a minimum of around 2 weeks after vaccination for your body to create the antibodies you need (to protect you from infection).

If my child misses the vaccine this time round will they be able to catch up later?

Once offered an appointment, it is important all children attend promptly, as there is a very busy schedule. It is even more important that should they be unable to attend the appointment is cancelled so that it can be offered to someone else, and so that the vaccines do not go to waste.

There is no guarantee that if an appointment is missed there will be an allocation later, however, there is the possibility of being added to a future waiting list. Every effort will be made to ensure those eligible who wish to be vaccinated do receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

My child feels unwell, can I delay their vaccination?

There is no reason to postpone vaccination for any minor illnesses, particularly without fever. If your child is acutely unwell, for example on antibiotics for a current chest infection, then vaccination should be postponed until they have fully recovered; this avoids any confusion regarding signs or symptoms that may be considered adverse effects of the vaccine.

Will my child receive a vaccine certificate?

For those who have received 2 doses, yes, the Covid Pass App will need to be downloaded to the mobile phone registered to their GHA account. In some cases this may be a parental mobile number, but if you are not certain about this or wish to update/use your child’s mobile phone number please contact CvChecker@gha.gi.

At present, the single dose is not applicable as proof of full vaccination for travel certification purposes. However, below 18 years old children are not required to be vaccinated for travel purposes anyway.

Has there been any problems related to body organs (e.g. the kidney) after receiving the Covid vaccine?

The COVID-19 pandemic is on-going and research continues to be carried out and guidance updated accordingly. Based on current guidance:

The Green Book states the most common side effects include injection site pain (>80%), fatigue (>60%), and headache (>50%). Muscle pains and chills/ fever are also likely (in 10-20% of cases). Children may also exhibit gastrointestinal symptoms (such as nausea and diarrhoea).

A few short term systemic effects are noted, including fatigue in 4% and headache in 2%. Reports regarding myocarditis are being monitored closely; it appears males under 25 years are more likely to be affected, however the numbers are very low (11 cases in 8.7 million child vaccine cases). A US study suggests having Covid-19 could be six times more likely to trigger myocarditis in young men than the vaccine, with a rate of about 450 per million infections.

There appears to be some relationship between the vaccine and sugar regulation within the body (receptors in the pancreas) but the extent to which this plays a role is yet to be determined.

No reports currently indicate any issues with the kidneys.

Generally, medical consensus is that getting vaccinated will produce milder and shorter illness compared to those contracting the virus naturally.

Can my child get the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as any other scheduled vaccines?

COVID-19 vaccines and other vaccines, such as the MMR or influenza vaccine, may be given on the same day. The Shingles vaccine is advised to be taken a week apart from the COVID-19 vaccine. General practice involves time delays and/or variations in the site of vaccination (one arm then another) for differing vaccines given; this helps to identify which vaccine may be involved should any side effects be seen.

Can my child play sports after having the vaccine?

Physical activity may continue after vaccination, though readiness will likely be down to how your individual child feels.

My children have received their one vaccine dose. Does this mean they no longer have to complete pre-departure COVID-19 tests before arrival into Gibraltar?

Pre-departure COVID-19 testing is still required for children aged 12 years and above who are not fully vaccinated (2 doses); note testing requirements are updated alongside circulating variants, cases and history of countries visited (read more HERE).

Lateral flow testing is also required within 24 hours of arrival to Gibraltar for all passengers (irrespective of vaccination status).

Can I attend the vaccination appointment with my child?

Yes. One designated guardian is able to accompany per child if they wish to.

Where can I find out more information?

Listed below are a range of sources of information that you may find helpful to enable you to do this. Some are quite technical and this is because some families may want to explore information to a greater depth than others. (Please note that there are sources of misinformation on social media and the internet; and ensure you seek information  from evidence-based sources).

  1. NHS Advice
  2. JCVI statement on vaccinations
  3. Updated Green Book chapter on vaccinations (aimed at health professionals as a guide regarding vaccine administration)
  4. UK Health security advice
  5. World Health Organisation
  6. Long COVID study in children

 My child has COVID-19 at present; are they still eligible for vaccination?

Any children who have had to miss their appointment due to a current COVID-19 infection are not eligible for a vaccine at this time – the minimum wait between vaccine and infection is 4 weeks. They will need to wait for the next program to be rolled out.

I am worried that my child may have been missed; what should I do?

If your child has missed their COVID-19 vaccine, please contact the vaccine administration team to find out about further appointments, call 200 66966 to arrange.

Can I report vaccine side effects?

Yes. Recognised side effect of  vaccines should be reported via the Coronavirus Yellow Card Scheme.

Chapter 8 of the Green Book gives detailed guidance on distinguishing between faints, panic attacks and the signs and symptoms of anaphylaxis.