South west Sydney GP urges parents to get kids COVID jab before school returns

Ten-year-old June Tattam gets a COVID vaccine. Picture: Karleen Minney
Ten-year-old June Tattam gets a COVID vaccine. Picture: Karleen Minney

The school holidays are winding down and many parents are preparing to send their kids back to school on January 28.

But while they are out buying new pencil cases, school bags, leather shoes and uniforms, south west Sydney GP Dr Ken McCroary has asked parents to book their child's COVID vaccine as well.

The Macarthur General Practice doctor says kids should have the jab before they start school this year.

"If we could get everyone dosed at least one before school starts, I would be pleased with that," Dr McCroary said.

"I'd suggest parents should go ahead and get their kids vaccinated as soon as they can - 2.6 per cent of kids who catch COVID end up in hospital and 10 per cent of kids are at risk of developing long COVID symptoms and conditions like Pediatric Inflammatory Multisystem Syndrome (PIMS) temporally associated with COVID-19 which could be life-threatening.

"It's also important to get vaccinated so that you don't bring the virus home to vulnerable relatives."

Even though COVID-19 in children is often milder than in adults, there is strong evidence to support vaccinating children.

The Pfizer children's vaccine is the approved COVID-19 vaccine for children aged five to 11 years old in Australia. The dose is around one third of the dose for people aged 12 years and older.

Dr McCroary reassured parents that the vaccine was safe for children.

"We've been talking about vaccinating young people for a while - and there are a number of countries across the world already doing it," Dr McCroary said.

"China has been vaccinating kids over the age of three for the past five months.

"So we knew it was a matter of time before we would be able to do it here and we have a lot of mums and dads, and also a lot of grandparents, asking about the vaccine for kids.

"There is an eight-week gap between the two vaccines for kids which has also shown a marked reduction in any side effects."

Dr McCroary said while the virus was thought to be less severe amongst young people, it was still important to protect children with the vaccine.

"A lot of people think of children as smaller adults, but their bodies and immune systems are very different to ours," he said.

"COVID-19 isn't just an adult disease, it is a disease that can affect kids as well.

"We have studies happening for the use of the COVID vaccines on two to five year-olds so we will probably be looking at vaccinating that age group later this year - and there are even studies happening with six months to two years old age group too."