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PARENT OPINION: Talking to my kids about getting their COVID-19 vaccine, and the 7 things that actually helped.

NSW Government
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Picture this: New Year’s Eve, 2021.   

It was about 8pm and still a while before the countdown to a brand new year. I was on the couch, in my PJs, but could barely see the television through my puffy, watery eyes. 

My neck and shoulder ached. My throat was scratchy.

My kids and husband were already in bed. The virus had got them too. COVID-19 had crashed the party, and all four of us were testing positive. Happy New Year to us!

It was not a pretty picture.

My son had vomited and had a red bloodshot eye. Hubby was coughing uncontrollably and could not keep his eyes open. As soon as he clocked off work online, he made the crawl to our bed and stayed there for hours. My daughter was shivering cold, but it was 33°C outside. 

My husband and I are thankfully vaxxed, and I've had my booster shot. I know our COVID-19 experience could have been much worse, had it not been for getting vaccinated. It’s been worse for so many. 

And that is simply how I decided to vaccinate my children against COVID-19. I know that it’s possible to catch COVID-19 again, and like every parent, I’ll do everything I can to help ensure my kids are protected from harm. 

I wanted to make sure we were all doing our bit to keep ourselves safe and well, and to help prevent further spread. We were so thankful to all recover okay, but COVID-19 still made us miserable.

After we’d been through the wringer with our COVID-19 episode, the kids didn’t take much convincing to get the vaccine once they'd fully recovered.

Still, I found it so helpful to chat to them about why it’s important, and give them the space to ask all the questions. 

Here’s how I talked about it with my kids, and the 7 things that actually helped.

Image: Supplied.

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1. School’s back.

Learning from the dining room table, talking to friends through a computer screen and trying to stay engaged while at home with a frazzled family is a tough ask. 

Now school is back in person, and we want to minimise further disruptions to the kids' friendships and learning.

But the virus won’t be disappearing in the short-term, and my children know how tricky it is to stay physically distanced from their classmates and to not be able to share after-school snacks. 

Evidence shows COVID-19 vaccination offers excellent protection against serious illness in children – even though COVID-19 in children is often milder than for us. It also helps protect against possible long-term effects from the virus which can have lasting impacts on health and wellbeing.

My children now know that getting vaccinated helps to keep them in school and participating in their favourite social activities that are so important for their learning and development.

I wanted them to enjoy the school year without worrying too much about catching COVID-19 again. 

My son, who is five and in his first year of school, was chuffed with the idea that he was helping to keep his teacher and his classmates safe too.

2. Lead by example.

I think having your kids come with you when you get your own vaccine or booster has huge positives.

My minis discovered that the phrase “COVID-19 vaccine” was not just something they’d overheard on the telly, but something that their mum and dad, our neighbours, our local greengrocer, their uncles and their school friends were getting on board with.

The pharmacist who gave me my booster really helped by remaining upbeat, reassuring, and encouraging. He told the kids about all the families he knows who’d had the vaccine and asked the kids to make sure I stayed brave. 

Seeing the steps it takes to receive a vaccination up close, and the fact it was all finished really quickly, helped the kids better understand the process. 

Seeing their mum calm and collected during the experience too I think really helped to reassure them that they didn’t need to worry. 

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Image: Supplied.

3. The downtime will be over before you know it.

Children can experience the same common side effects as adults after getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

NSW Health advises that if children do experience side effects, they're generally mild and go away after a day or two, but may include headache, fever and chills, fatigue, tiredness or muscle pain and a sore arm at the injection site. Minor side effects we're assured are super normal and show that the immune system is responding to the vaccine. 

The potential side effects were a much better alternative to how my children felt when they caught COVID-19, so thankfully they weren’t hesitant. They had their first dose in February 2022, and I can report neither of them have felt any different afterwards or since. We have no hesitations about their second dose, which is coming up soon. 

4. Coming for you, Nanna!

After many months of anxiously giving their grandparents bubble cuddles (standing apart with an imaginary bubble between), or for a period there not visiting in person at all, it was a big relief to know we have lessened the chance of passing COVID-19 to Nanna or Grandpa by having the kids vaccinated, and continuing to visit them outdoors.

We are all vaccinated in this household and as a result we are helping to protect our friends, family, and the community, including those at higher risk of serious illness, by helping to reduce transmission. And yeah, we’re pretty proud of it. The cuddles these days are next level BTW.

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5. Enjoying some sort of normality again.

Catching a flick, competing in after-school sports, taking the kids to the theatre, attending birthday parties… there’s nothing quite like doing all the things that we missed doing since the pandemic began. 

The bonus is the kids feel good that they're safer while out and about.

My daughter, who had her birthday parties cancelled in the two years prior, is looking forward to celebrating her ninth birthday with her friends this year with an epic party (a couple of years in the making).

6. Lollipops? Great incentives.

We booked our children for consecutive paediatric COVID-19 vaccination appointments with a local GP. It could not have been easier. 

We found our vaccination appointment online via nsw.gov.au. There was no waiting or getting anxious beforehand, and it was honestly over before it began. 

My daughter was happy with her pink bandaid and my son was pleased that a little injection was all it took to earn him a lolly from the neighbouring chemist. No fuss. Happy days.

7. The time is now.

I was confident getting my family vaccinated because I knew that Australia’s COVID-19 vaccines are confirmed to be safe and effective for children aged 5 and over. The time really is now to book in and get it done.

Millions of children around the world have been safely vaccinated against COVID-19. Evidence shows vaccination offers excellent protection against serious illness for children, gives their immune system a helping hand against the virus and helps keep your family safe and well. 

I'm so thankful to see that more than 668,000 Australian children aged 5-11 have been fully vaccinated so far. 

I hope to see that number keep rising significantly too.

All children aged 5 and over in Australia are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination.

COVID-19 vaccine appointments are available for children at thousands of locations across NSW, including GPs, pharmacies, Aboriginal Medical Services (AMSs) and NSW Health vaccination clinics. Many also offer walk-ins.

Book your appointment or find a walk-in location near you now.

Children aged 5 and over who have previously had COVID-19 can receive the vaccine once they have recovered from their illness. This is usually around 4 to 6 weeks after infection. 

If you have any questions about COVID-19 vaccination, talk to your GP for advice that is right for your family. 

Feature Image: Supplied/Mamamia.

NSW Government
Vaccination is your child’s best protection against COVID-19. Book your child's vaccination at nsw.gov.au.