BASS Coast Health, which operates the Wonthaggi sub-regional hospital, is encouraging families to have their children vaccinated for COVID-19 to cut back on the burst of cases likely to result from schools resuming.

With students interacting with friends and teachers at school, Bass Coast Health (BCH) is prepared for a likely rise in COVID cases.

BCH CEO Jan Child said vaccinating children aged 5-11 years and also teenagers was essential to protecting them, their friends and their families from COVID-19.

“Vaccination is the best form of protection for children and teenagers, and in fact everyone from COVID-19 and that is why we are offering vaccinations for primary school children aged 5-11 and teenagers at our Community Vaccination Clinic at the Wonthaggi Town Hall,” Ms Child said. “Parents are welcome to walk-in with their children or make an appointment, and can be assured that our staff will do all they can to minimise any anxiety children may have about needles.”

Ms Child is pleased many families have already had their children vaccinated, with more than a thousand local children aged 5-11 already vaccinated.

“The more people who are vaccinated, the more our community is protected from COVID, which will in turn lessen the impact on our health system, including our own health service which has already experienced increased demand and staff shortfalls due to COVID infections and exposures,” she said.

Nurse immuniser Trudy Foon said from the moment children walk into the vaccination clinic at the town hall, they are greeted by cheerful, experienced staff.

“We immediately engage in conversation with the parent and their child to help build trust and ease their fears by making a big deal of why they are being vaccinated and how special they are,” she said.

“The children’s vaccination bays are set up with all the things that children love: fairy lights, Pokémon posters, super hero stickers and bubble makers. Not only are these things very visually stimulating, but they also provide a fantastic distraction.

“Every child receives a show bag that contains a colouring book and pencils, stickers and a pocket spinner. They all love to have their superhero band aid to proudly display to one and all they are real super heroes. Of course, we can’t forget the lolly pop. By the time children receive all this they have forgotten about the needle.”

Ms Foon said children may experience mild reactions such as pain at the injection site, rash or fever, which are normal and will go away within a day or so.

“Parents are informed that it is safe to use children’s Panadol for any pain or discomfort and to ensure children stay hydrated. Parents are also encouraged to seek medical advice if they have any concerns,” she said.

“While it is a pleasure and a privilege to be part of an incredible team of nurses at BCH, there is no greater privilege than being part of a team that provides such a crucial service that will ultimately assist in the health and safety of our local community at such a trying time.”

The interval between first and second doses for children aged 5-11 years is eight weeks.

Appointments for COVID vaccinations for children aged 5-11 years can be made by phoning the Coronavirus Hotline on 1800 675 398 between 8am and 8pm, seven days a week, or online at https://portal.cvms.vic.gov.au/

Children can also be vaccinated at select GPs and pharmacies.